We round up the reviews for James Graham’s new play now playing at the Young Vic Theatre.
WhatsOnStage: ***** “At one point early in the second half, gripped to my seat, I started to wonder whether anyone who wasn’t as obsessed as I am with American history in the late 20th century would be as excited as I felt by this play. By the close, I was convinced they would because Graham has taken a piece of history and made it relevant to today, explained how it shaped the culture wars we are still living through, and how it made the politics that we experience.”
The Guardian: **** “Graham and director Jeremy Herrin (with characteristic pace and clarity) crucially give this media archaeology a contemporary framing. The most striking modernity is casting. Charles Edwards’ Vidal delivers a near-perfect soundalike and acceptable lookalike, while Buckley, who can be seen as the epitome of a privileged white right-winger, is portrayed by the black British actor David Harewood. He exactly captures every aspect – drawl, lolling posture, facial tics – of the Republican’s awkward broadcasting persona, except for one element in the room.”
The Independent: **** “New play from ‘Quiz’ writer James Graham finds comedy within political division.”
Evening Standard: **** “Herrin’s production, co-produced by Headlong Theatre, is dynamic but rough around the edges, with some small fluffs on opening night. But a slightly imperfect new James Graham play will always be streets ahead of the competition.”
Time Out: ***** “There’s probably an argument that every one of Graham’s plays is basically just a meticulously researched love letter to whatever his current political obsession is: ‘Best of Enemies’ is a rush of starry-eyed wonder at the awesome chaos of late ‘60s America, and the towering intellects who stalked it.”
Broadway World: ***** “‘Political theatre’ can be a slippery phrase, the first word too often overwhelming the second as the polemic trumps the personal. Not so with James Graham’s electrifying new play, Best Of Enemies, staged in the crucible of the Young Vic with a verve and a vividness that catapults us back over half a century to a world that looks disturbingly like our own.”
The Times: ***** “Here come the gladiators. We’re used to seeing partisan talking heads tear lumps out of each other on television or Twitter, but James Graham’s captivating new play harks back to an era when the gloves first came off. Sad to say, I’m not sure Gore Vidal and William F Buckley Jr’s names mean much to British audiences under the age of, say, 50. Still, this Headlong co-commission has turned them into the central figures of a parable about how the media sold its soul in the pursuit of ratings.”
London Theatre.co.uk: **** “A thought-provoking and resonant drama.”
Culture Whisper: ***** “Utilising Graham’s inventiveness and Herrin’s signature slickness, Vidal’s hotel bedroom slides into Buckley’s hotel suite and back again, the characters moving between the space as they strategize with their close-knit teams on how they will throw verbal punches, hooks and uppercuts at their opponent. This mercurial choreography is achieved through a genuine playfulness that the theatrical form thrives on. Graham has expertly adapted the original documentary for the stage so that it reverberates across the decades.”
iNews: ***** “If Graham offers his closing thoughts a little over-emphatically in a flight-of-fancy coda that drums home the present-day implications of Buckley v Vidal, we can forgive him. No other contemporary playwright works with such detailed verve on so wide a canvas and it’s thrilling to watch. As for these fine enemies, a West End transfer surely beckons.”
The Reviews Hub: **** “And yet even with such obvious sideswipes, Graham’s power to draw a line from 1968’s events to the politics of today is not undimmed. Best of Enemies illustrates how we got into the current mess of politics and political coverage, explaining how TV and politics is now dominated by Fox News, Farage, Johnson and more, at the expense of more reasoned, more productive alternatives.”
The Upcoming: ***** “As such, it is clear that Best of Enemies is a magnificent exploration of a debate between two political heavyweights of the late 60s – a conflict is still very much raging on today. It is a fascinating topic with brilliant acting and a stunning production. A hit from start to finish.”
Theatre Cat: **** “It’s an entertaining, instructive, questioning, honest play, with a downbeat and moving end as the two men might speak after their death.”
View from the Cheap Seat: “A political fairy tale then, but one worth reading to your kids for a couple of hours. “
Best of Enemies continues to play at the Young Vic Theatre until the 22nd January.