Review Round Up: The Forest, Hampstead Theatre

We round up the reviews for Florian Zeller’s play, directed by Jonathan Kent and starring Toby Stephens.

(c)The Other Richard

Broadway World: *** ” Engaging performances from Stephens and Paul McGann, as different versions of the man, do draw our sympathy, but I struggled with whether the character – an admired middle-class doctor with a supportive spouse and chic home – actually deserved it.” 

London **** “Some will dismiss The Forest as more middlebrow posturing from a playwright who with each freshly succinct title continues to mistake tricksiness for depth, but that’s not the feeling in this corner. Suffice it to say that I left the Hampstead shaken and also stirred and ready to return at the first opportunity to watch the play’s dark recesses reveal their shadowy, shivery power once more.”

The Guardian: *** “Whatever its shortcomings, we cannot help but be seduced by this production. McKee sends shivers down the spine in the play’s final moments, and the rest of the cast is universally strong, especially a surreal, whey-faced interrogator played with controlled menace by Finbar Lynch.”

Evening Standard: *** “At just 80 minutes the play is taut, tight and stylish enough to command the attention. But I suspect that deep down, the psychological shenanigans that Zeller inserts into hackneyed thriller tropes really aren’t that profound.”

Time Out: *** “As usual, ‘The Forest’ is highly watchable and with this cast stands every chance of following ‘The Father’, ‘The Son’ and ‘The Height of the Storm’ into the West End. Lots of people are going to enjoy it. I enjoyed it! But I just find it hard to quite reconcile myself to Zeller’s enormous popularity: he is quite possibly the most successful playwright in the world today, but he doesn’t really feel like he is: an efficient crafter of entertainment rather than somebody whose next work is feverishly anticipated. His plays are efficient, gripping, but never really audacious. I’m always left with the same question: is that it?”

Culture Whisper: *** “The Forest certainly looks the part. Anna Fleischle’s award-worthy set spreads the drama across a two-tier stage split into three compartments: a living room and upper bedroom – which would not look out of place in a House & Home photoshoot – and a smaller office space. The set works with the narrative, too: Man 1’s increasingly anxious state is contrasted comically with the appearance of more and more bouquets of flowers – a token of his status as an esteemed doctor – each time the dinner-party scene is repeated.”

The Arts Desk: *** “His latest play, The Forest, which had its world premiere at the Hampstead Theatre in an unusual move for this writer, is his most purely puzzle-like yet, and also his least rewarding.”

iNews: *** “Jonathan Kent’s luxuriously cast production is both alluring and alarming, its violent imagery given an elegant sheen and Hitchcockian atmosphere. But it’s hard to escape the nagging feeling that we’ve been here before.”

The Independent: *** “Florian Zeller’s play is a compelling exploration of the duality of men – but its puzzle pieces don’t quite add up.”

London Theatre 1: **** “As ever with Florian Zeller’s plays, there’s plenty of food for thought. Some of the details in the story may not be entirely feasible, though admittedly they make for good theatre.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “Jonathan Kent directs with a cool elegance, coaxing the anxiety that lies beneath to the surface of Stephens’ performance while letting McGann remain more impassive and unreadable. It’s gripping enough, but not vintage Zeller.”

The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “The Forest is always entertaining and intriguing and everyone will have their own theory as to what is really is going on. But ultimately this is another play about men, and their self-destructive tendencies.”

The Telegraph: ** “Hit playwright and The Father director Florian Zeller proves he’s lost the Midas touch with this overly-tricksy new work.”

The Times: ** “Watching Florian Zeller’s chic but vacuous drama, which is receiving its world premiere here rather than in his native France, is like watching a slick exponent of the shell game. Your eyes strain to follow the endless sleight of hand. It’s clever, it’s knowing, yet you soon begin to realise that, even if this domestic parable is less hackneyed than his most recent West End offering, The Son, it’s still little more than an exercise in form.”

The Stage: *** “Sleek yet clinical premiere of Florian Zeller’s typically fractured narrative.”

London Theatre **** 1/2 “It is hard to talk more about this production without spoiling the route the play takes but it  is truly a gripping evening of theatre, once again proving the strength of the Florian Zeller  and Christopher Hampton combination. This is a first-class production that deserves to  be seen and enjoyed by many and it will leave you discussing the meanings and  interpretations of the play well beyond the curtain call and the tube ride home.”

Lou Reviews:The Forest is an interesting piece of theatre, but holds its meaning just out of reach.”

The Forest continues to play at the Hampstead Theatre until the 12th March.

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