Review Round Up: The Normal Heart, National Theatre

Discover what critics have had to say about this revival of Larry Kramer’s play directed by Dominic Cooke.

(c)Helen Maybanks

WhatsOnStage: ***** “The triumph of Cooke’s production is the way it respects every beat of Kramer’s political arguments and all his play’s wit and style – it is often very funny – while never letting us forget that this here is above all a tragedy of men who lost men they loved, as friends and as partners.”

The Guardian: **** “The Normal Heart has its static or dogmatic moments with angry speeches laying out political or ideological positions, but there are also rich and complex discussions, especially the debate on love and sex.”

British ***** “A beautiful, heart-breaking revival that contains some of the best performances you will see this year.”

Time Out: **** “‘The Normal Heart’ is a dispatch from the frontline of a war that is, to a certain extent, now over. But once it gets into its stride, Cooke’s production is neither dated nor subservient to our current woes. It is a burning nugget of recent history, a story of people trying frantically to fight back from the brink of annihilation. It hasn’t lost its heat at all – it’s white-hot, forever.”

Culture Whisper: **** “Through so much loss and anguish, The Normal Heart manages to be wickedly funny, lacing its darker moments with swift cracks of humour.”

iNews: **** “The play has its shortcomings and omissions. It’s inescapably verbose, and its viewpoint is almost exclusively white, middle class and male, issues Kramer briefly acknowledges, if only to brush them aside (“what do you think about lesbians?” someone asks at a campaign meeting. “Not much,” comes the quipped response). But its power endures: tough, tender and devastating.”

Evening Standard: **** ” A play about the aids epidemic might seem de trop in the middle of a pandemic, but Larry Kramer’s autobiographical 1985 drama is a glorious, wrenching watch.”

The Stage: **** “A resonant, if somewhat theatrically flat, revival of Larry Kramer’s landmark play about the AIDs crisis at the National Theatre.”

The Upcoming: **** “Although Vicki Mortimer’s sparse set design leaves something to be desired, it does focus the attention on the story and on a disease that shook the world. The script is not too prosaic, leaving enough space for emotions to emerge; there isn’t a dry eye in the house in the closing scene, showing Kramer’s words can still stir 30 years on.”

Exeunt Magazine: “The Normal Heart, at this point, is a historical play. It is an important and moving snapshot taken from a moment of crisis, but the mere fact that is was being told from within the catastrophe it depicts leads to moments that feel disingenuous without context.”

London Un- Attached: “Despite these niggles “The Normal Heart” is a hugely important and prescient play, bearing witness to a tragic moment in history. It balances the personal and the political and delivers both polemic and pathos in equal measure centred around Ben Daniels’ towering performance. It’s a hit! Go and see it!!”

The Times: *** “If journalism is the first draft of history, Larry Kramer’s drama about the early stages of the Aids epidemic in 1980s New York has the virtues — and flaws — of an epic piece of reportage. First staged 35 years ago, when our understanding of HIV was still murky, it lays out unwelcome facts, challenges assumptions and captures the atmosphere of the times.”

Broadway World: ***** “Daniels delivers a towering performance which will no doubt linger long after you depart the venue. The actor takes us on a relentless journey through almost every emotion possible and it’s mesmerising to see him go from the more tender moments with his partner to the fervently enraged but valid tangents he ejects at any given opportunity.”

The Telegraph: **** “Dominic Cooke’s National Theatre production of Larry Kramer’s play still casts a grim spell and had first-night audience members sobbing.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “Ben Daniels is utterly convincing as Ned who rails against everything and argues with everyone. Even his pauses, where he stands hands on hips in double denim, are weighted in suppressed energy.”

The Normal Heart continues to plat at the National Theatre until the 6th November.

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