Review Round Up: The Corn is Green, National Theatre

Find out what critics have had to say about this revival of Emlyn Williams’ 1938 play.

(c)Johan Persson

The Guardian: **** “Our hearts do soar and melt, though, as the gifted Evans navigates his way towards a happy ending, and there are lovely, warm laughs along the way. This revival is a reminder that old stories, when they are good, stay that way, however riddled they are with nostalgia.”

Time Out: *** “This is a fine example of how to revive a dated play and make it feel postmodern and fresh. But the text of ‘The Corn is Green’ lacks the raw power needed to make this exercise feel worthwhile: it’s an intellectual fairytale where obstacles to Evans’s success conveniently vanish, and supporting characters are thin cardboard cutouts to be knocked down on his path to glory. Strong performances and an undeniable momentum make it fun to watch, but there’s not much to ponder when the music fades.”

WhatsOnStage: ***** “It’s that sense of voice, of education unlocking an ability to speak, that makes The Corn is Green such a powerful story. This production reveals that truth under the melodramatic gesturing. As Noel Coward said of cheap music, it is extraordinary how potent it is.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “Emlyn Williams’ semi-autobiographical play hasn’t been seen in London for 35 years, and frankly that’s a surprise because it’s an interesting comedy of manners and it has at least two strong roles for female actors. In Dominic Cooke’s revival, The Corn is Green is given a layer of self-reflexivity so that the playwright becomes character in his own play. It’s a strategy that eventually works.”

Broadway World: *** “Nicola Walker’s understated ferocity as Miss Moffat is the epicentre of the play. She is the erudite and unpretentious teacher whose belief and dedication to Morgan’s education galvanises him to ascend from the coal pits and up the social classes. Her stalwart performance is dignified, tender, and joyous to watch, especially alongside Morgan Evans, played by a youthful Iwan Davies.”

Culture Whisper: *** “If you’re going to revive a play, which in its time has inspired films led by the likes of Bette Davies and Katharine Hepburn, perhaps this is the way to do it. The question, though, is whether The Corn is Green is worth reviving at all”

London Unattached: “This revival version also builds up in terms of momentum, characterisation and use of props as it goes on, making the audience aware of the fact that the play was once a work in progress inspired by real events in Williams’ life inclusive of Welsh songs, dialogue and accents as well as his real-life version of Miss Moffatt.”

The Telegraph: ***** “The National Theatre’s revival of Emlyn Williams’s 1938 play is crowned by the Unforgotten star’s finely calibrated performance.”

The Times: **** “Here’s a revival that will divide audiences. On one side will be those who feel that Dominic Cooke’s take on Emlyn Williams’s semi-autobiographical drama — premiered back in 1938 — puts them in mind of an undertaker who has dressed up a customer with lots of rouge and a shiny new toupee.”

British Theatre Guide: “Yes, this play has dated and, though no doubt dear to its author, not his best work, but Emlyn Williams has been off our stages for too long and, despite its faults, this is still a good night in the theatre.”

The Corn is Green will play at the National Theatre until the 11th June.

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