Review Round Up: The 47th, Old Vic Theatre

We round up the reviews for Mike Bartlett’s play starring Bertie Carvel.

(c)Marc Brenner

The Guardian: *** ” Like King Charles III, this play is partly spoken in iambic pentameter but despite the literary ingenuity in Bartlett’s script, it falls oddly flat. There is intelligent direction from Rupert Goold and a handsome set by Miriam Buether, which captures a courtly majesty. But the drama looks and feels like a conceptual riff rather than truly Shakespearean in its effects.”

The Times: *** “It’s an entertaining but uneven pageant held together by a barnstorming performance by Bertie Carvel, who as well as sporting a gravity-defying Trumpian hairstyle has captured all his mannerisms and tics.”

WhatsOnStage: **** “There are missteps Goold’s lively production (it’s slightly difficult to feel terrified of a mob that communicates in a shamanic creative dance routine) but under Neil Austin’s mood shaping lighting (a great circular tube of fluorescent that switches from white to red to antiseptic peppermint) and with the help of Ash J Woodward’s video projections, it cleverly and vibrantly switches from place to place.” 

The Telegraph: ** “Rory Bremner does a wicked Donald Trump impression, but he has nothing on Bertie Carvel. The chameleonic 44-year-old British actor, who stole the show as Miss Trunchball in the original production of Matilda, incarnates the man who was America’s 45th president in Mike Bartlett’s satirical new play with such winning meticulousness, you’d swear the real McCoy had landed in SE1.”

The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s the nightmare scenario that is all too plausible: Donald Trump throws his hat back into the ring in the next U.S. presidential election. Still uninterested in serving the country. Out for revenge. British playwright Mike Bartlett dips his toe into that disturbing prospect, with a new play that, like Trump himself, veers between the terrifying and the outrageously comic. Under Rupert Goold’s arresting direction, there are moments when it really does feel as though all the garish spectacle and tortured introspection of American politics has descended upon the London stage.”

Time Out: **** “You have to meet ‘The 47th’ on its own terms. It does not represent a realistic, po-faced attempt to map out the next US presidential election. For some, Bartlett’s language and Carvel’s articulacy and charisma will be dignifying Trump (though if that’s a problem maybe don’t see a blank verse play about him). Others will probably think it should include a more forensic list of the criticisms of Harris, Biden and Democrats in general (both sides!). But really, it’s tremendous entertainment, that explores the decline of American democracy in an infinitely more enjoyable way than the actual decline of American democracy we must all bear witness to.”

Broadway World: *** “The 47th isn’t the most enlightening of works and has clear issues in its tone and endgame, but it’s exceptionally entertaining. Carvel is glorious in the role, and the comedic flair he brings to the game (albeit, as said, at odds with the rest of the themes) is clockwork.”

The Stage: *** “Mike Bartlett’s new blank verse play about the 2024 US presidential election is not always satisfying but front and centre is a stupendous turn from Carvel as Donald Trump.”

The Reviews Hub: **** 1/2 “As the behaviour of British politicians edges towards that seen on soap operas, it surprising that we haven’t seen how Shakespearian American politics has become in the last few years. Mike Bartlett imagines what America will look like in 2024 and sets it all to iambic pentameter. Throwing in allusions to Julius CaesarKing Lear and Macbeth, the fight for the ‘Oval Crown’ at the next presidential election is an intriguing battle royale.”

British Theatre Guide: “Rupert Goold’s production ensures a rich mix of comic and serious with Miriam Buether’s setting on a huge circular stage that reaches out into the auditorium, a reminder of the size and the power of the USA, but a comic opening when a golf flag pops up at its centre and Donald Trump drives on in his buggy to play a first shot.”

The 47th continues to play at the Old Vic Theatre until the 28th May.

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