Review Round Up: Bach & Sons, Bridge Theatre

Find out what critics have had to say about the world premiere of Nina Raine’s new play at the Bridge Theatre….

(c)Manuel Harlan

The Financial Times: *** “But while it’s consistently absorbing, the play never quite gets under the skin of the material. Russell Beale is every bit as charismatic as you might expect: spry, funny, suddenly vulnerable, he suggests a complex emotional hinterland behind Bach’s dyspeptic impatience, the deep loneliness of genius and, ultimately, great regret. The drama itself doesn’t dig into that, however, and in places it becomes weighed down by exposition and explanation.”

The Guardian: ** “It is maddening to see all the signs of a powerful play folded inside a frustratingly flat one.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “for the most part the piece feels encumbered by historical exposition when director Nick Hytner could make it lithe and punchy – something that was made all the easier by Raine’s smart decision to make the dialogue anachronistically modern – a whole wad of F-bombs giving the foul-mouthed elder Bach a fun novelty.”

The Independent: **** “Nina Raine’s new play, premiered in a production by Nicholas Hytner, is typically sly, in the know and phenomenally eloquent.”

Evening Standard: *** “ultimately this play revolves – wittily, cleverly, but repetitively – around the themes of flawed genius and the poisonous legacies of fame and family. Perhaps alongside counterpoint and fugue, more thought could have been given to progression.”

(c)Manuel Harlan.

iNews: *** “Raine has undoubtedly done her research into Bach’s oeuvre, his love of mathematical patterns and his overarching belief that “Music is there to serve God”. The pace slows somewhat in the second half and some discussions – on the purpose of music, about whether the doling out of love and talent is fair – could usefully be edited. There are the occasional pitfalls of biographical drama: family members telling each other facts they surely know already.”

Time Out: “‘Bach & Sons’ is entertaining stuff, made with care, and if the drama is on the cosy side, it’s worth saying the music always thrills, melodic razors of harpsichord, slashing thrilling patterns through the air.”

The Arts Desk: **** “Russell Beale evokes the wit, the intellectual rigour and the sheer bloody-mindedness of the composer in a performance that’s simultaneously etched with his suffering.”

The Stage: *** “New play about JS Bach’s family life starring Simon Russell Beale that’s rich in musical theory.”

(c)Manuel Harlan

A Younger Theatre: *** “Bach and Sons is a deeply flawed script that is elevated by the strength of its performers and beautiful soundtrack. An undoubtably powerful composer, but contrary man, is brought to life through the stories of his sons and their struggles to live and succeed in his shadow.”

Broadway World: *** “Besides learning a little bit more about Bach, the audience is not really left with anything to mull over, his moods notwithstanding. Or perhaps it’s that the stories of Bach and his sons aren’t the ones we need to be telling or hearing right now”

The Telegraph: **** “Across his commanding stage career, Simon Russell Beale has excelled at playing isolated, emotionally complex men.”

The Times: **** “Nina Raine’s new play portrays a sensual working musician who is almost as sweary as the Mozart of AmadeusBach & Sons is a fascinating glimpse of the German paterfamilias who loved beer and crowned his heavenly masterpiece, The Goldberg Variations, with a fragment from a folksy ballad about cabbages and turnips.”

British Theatre Guide: “What Bach & Sons lacks in dramatic incident is disguised by its theatrical style. Vicki Mortimer’s set makes a bold statement with a sky full of harpsichords clustered like clouds overhead. The slow trucking of its scene changes is strangely moving, the examples of Bach’s music are skilfully integrated and its strong performances always hold the attention.”

Bach & Sons continues to play at the Bridge Theatre until the 11th September.

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