Maxine Peake stars in Lucy Kirkwood’s new play at the National Theatre. But what have critics had to say about it?
WhatsOnStage: **** “But it is a brilliant, brave, bold and intelligent three hours in the theatre. It is, for all the seriousness of its subject, often very funny yet at the close, profoundly moving.”
The Guardian: *** “Kirkwood has said that she sought to create a “muscular” story out of these provincial women’s lives, so the emotional distancing seems deliberate. It is, above all, a cerebral play that does not require us to walk in these women’s shoes nor empathise with them, but to see their negotiations with power from a clear-eyed vantage point. This makes it arduous and even slightly sterile to watch at times but also profoundly admirable.”
The Stage: **** “this audacious play’s strength lies in the richly textured picture it paints of these women and their lives, their relationship to their bodies and each other.”
Culture Whisper: **** “For all its vivacity and ambition, The Welkin is far from perfect. It needs editing down and tightening up. There are occasional whiffs of twee GCSE drama – especially in a spontaneous and long Kate Bush singalong. And a few of the Suffolk accents are iffy.”
Time Out: *** “Kirkwood tries something new with each play: ‘The Welkin’ is a world away from her much safer last NT show, ‘Mosquitoes’. It doesn’t work as well, but it tries to do so much more, and there’s a magnificence in its muddle.”
Evening Standard: *** “But it’s a delight to watch the ebb and flow of dialogue in an ensemble including Haydn Gwynne, Cecilia Noble and June Watson, covering orgasm, menopause and the use of “a bit of brick in a handkerchief” to ensure the withdrawal method of contraception works.”
Exeunt Magazine: “For every declarative statement it gives (“Nobody blames God when there is a woman to blame instead”) it raises dozens more questions which it refuses to answer. The Welkin is full of secrets, all sewn into the soft folds of muddied fabric.”
The Upcoming: ***** “Kirkwood has written the kind of meaty, witty, bountifully charactered play that deserves to become a curriculum mainstay.”
The Telegraph: *** “Far too many lines, not helped by some dodgy Suffolk accents, are inaudible, to the extent that I found myself stumbling over various key plot points.”
City AM: “Lucy Kirkwood’s new play at the National Theatre is a revelation: hilarious, tragic, harrowing and utterly compelling.”
London Theatre1: **** “The ladies’ frankness is often refreshing, and it is good to see so many women of different ages on stage. But it was difficult to hear certain lines – I missed a few punchlines from my vantage point which other sections of the audience chortled fairly heartily at.”
The Times: ** “Less would have been so much more. Lucy Kirkwood’s play about a dozen women corralled into a jury in 18th-century East Anglia has the makings of a taut psychological study. Yet inflated to three hours, the piece sprawls endlessly and drifts towards a melodramatic conclusion.”
Broadway World: **** “a warm, humane and very funny piece, firmly anchored in women’s everyday experience, the Georgian English speech leavened with frank, earthy dialect. Frustratingly, a combination of inconsistent accents and muddy diction means that dialogue isn’t always clear – and it’s a shame to lose even a word of this rich text. Undoubtedly, that can be addressed over the run.”
London Box Office: *** “Perhaps a seeing it a second time would be more rewarding. The trouble is, although I admired the play and director James Macdonald’s production, I didn’t feel sufficiently enthused to want to see it again.”
The Welkin continues to play at the National Theatre until the 23rd May.