Review Round Up: Botticelli in the Fire, Hampstead Theatre

Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for Blanche McIntyre’s production now playing at the Hampstead Theatre.

(c)Manuel Harlan.

The Guardian: *** “Blanche McIntyre directs with daring, and there are some exhilarating moments, such as when the jaded goddess, Venus (Sirine Saba), speaks of the burden of her beauty while men in gold pants dance around her. A game of squash between Lorenzo de’ Medici and Botticelli is slickly choreographed to a soundtrack, and Johanna Town’s lighting drenches the stage with painterly colour. The various parts contain imagination and chutzpah but are too disparate to become an extraordinary whole.”

The Upcoming: **** “The piece is well directed and acted; award-winner Dickie Beau is particularly compelling in his portrayal of a tortured, flawed genius. Innovative and intriguing, the set design (James Cotterill) and lighting (Johanna Town) provide an evocative, dramatic ambience for this provocative and thought-provoking show.”

Evening Standard: *** “Blanche McIntyre’s production has a looseness suited to the material, allowing Dickie Beau’s cocksure Botticelli to show and tell us what an awful person he is. James Cotterill’s black box set becomes an artist’s studio, a squash court, and a dramatic bonfire for anything Savonarola considers decadent.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “Tannahill’s play comes across like a solid piece of Renaissance fanfic stroke erotica, an amorous and anachronistic Amadeus.”

Exeunt Magazine: ” We watch corpses pile up at one point at an alarmingly fast rate, dropped from the ceiling to the sound of echoing thuds.  It’s goofy, rather than disturbing. I want things to feel more packed in, and dirtier. And it’s not as if I think all LGBT theatre should be underground and starved of money, to be any good, but I know I’d excuse more of what I don’t like so much in Botticelli in the Fire as rough and ready if we were somewhere else entirely.”

The Telegraph: *** “an absorbing but archly anachronistic play by 31-year-old Canadian wunderkind Jordan Tannahill (something of a Renaissance man, what with film-making, novel-writing and directing among his many credits), the burning issues of that remote time get relayed through a mere seven characters.”

British Theatre Guide: “The issue that neither Jordan Tannahill nor Blanche McIntyre satisfactorily resolves is the culture clash between a fascinating historical and artistic story and the decision to present the drama in a manner that combines 21st-century queer cabaret and something considerably more realistic.”

Time Out: ** “McIntyre’s production underscores this story’s emotive moments with heavy literalism; we’re not just told there’s a plague epidemic, we see a pile of cloth-wrapped bodies gradually thunk down from the ceiling. And for a show about art and the senses, the visuals are disappointing.”**** “This production captures the marrying of high art and popular culture in spectacular fashion. Though occasionally treading a little too literally, there’s so much to enjoy in this phantasmagorical queered origin story. “

The Stage: *** ” Given the subject matter, there’s a surprising aesthetic uncertainty, a muted flamboyance, an imaginative timidity. It never quite ignites.”

Broadway World: ***** “Botticelli in the Fire is cool, but that’s not all it is. Multi-disciplinary artist and playwright Jordan Tannahill tears down time barriers, eliminating the distance between the 15th century and the 21st with glorious anachronistic liberties, drawing an urgent comparison between then and now.”

British ** “Originally a one-act play, it may work better in a tighter form on a smaller stage but, despite its queer intentions, this ambitious production is ultimately disappointing.”

London Theatre1: *** “Whilst Botticelli in the Fire is visually rich, it is emotionally thin and a missed opportunity. Tannahill poses an intriguing question in his programme notes: ‘what really led Botticelli to submit his masterpieces to the Bonfire of the Vanities?’ If he had in fact written a play that did explore this question – with depth and feeling triumphing over gimmick and mannerism – through a queer lens, he might have also produced a masterpiece. As a writer, he can turn a phrase and draw laughs so I wouldn’t write this playwright off entirely.”

Botticelli in the Fire continues to play at the Hampstead Theatre until the 23rd November.


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