Review Round Up: Blues for An Alabama Sky, National Theatre

We take a look at what critics have to say about Lynette Linton’s revival of Pearl Cleage’s play…

(c)Marc Brenner

Broadway World: ***** “This production, directed by Lynette Linton is nothing short of mesmerising – combining music, movement, and powerful performances to create a production that evokes truly visceral reactions within the audience. Linton’s direction is sensitive and purposeful, generating a sense of tension that is razor-sharp, slicing through the comfort that the onstage comradery creates.”

The Stage: **** “A stylish and seductive study of the end of the Harlem Renaissance, starring Samira Wiley and Giles Terera.”

The Guardian: **** “Samira Wiley and Giles Terera are fabulously matched as a waiflike singer with an astonishing bluesy voice and a larger-than-life dandy whose horror at bad couture provides a rich seam of frock jokes. Initially, these are hilariously trained on the dowdy suits of Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo’s sweetly frumpy Delia, but they darken as Guy returns in outfits bloodied from nights on the town, and the limitations of Angel’s Alabama suitor (a sturdily unhistrionic Osy Ikhile) reveal themselves through his stifling sartorial choices for her.”

Evening Standard: **** “Though Wiley’s face dominates the publicity material, I’d wager that she, Terera, Adékoluẹjo and director Linton – who runs the Bush Theatre and makes her National directorial debut here – each provide a different but potent draw to audiences. Certainly, they all contribute to the alchemy of a deliciously funny and deeply affecting piece of theatre.”

Time Out: **** “This play makes a fraught, fascinating era of Black cultural history feel real and alive. It shows that, then as now, claiming the freedom to live authentically comes with sacrifices. And it paints rich, complex friendships with a warmth that stays with you, long after its final notes have faded.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “And while the wit that infuses the play’s first act gives way to darker material as the second act heads toward tragedy, what remains are strong performances that imbue characters with lives infused with blues – whether blues performed in song by Wiley, Terera and, on occasion, the play’s ensemble of understudies, or the blues of lives at the cusp of American excess as it tips into the penury of the Depression.”

The Telegraph: **** “This revival of Blues for an Alabama Sky, Pearl Cleage’ 1930s-set play, is a seamy pleasure, led by Samira Wiley and Giles Terera.”

The Times: *** “One of Duke Ellington’s greatest compositions, Harlem Air Shaft, evokes the sounds and melodies wafting from households piled on top of each other. Pearl Cleage’s 1995 play is the dreamy stage equivalent, a portrait of a disparate group of strivers and hustlers trying to keep their heads above water in the New York of 1930, a moment when the optimism and energy of the Harlem Renaissance was giving way to the Great Depression.”

WhatsOnStage: **** “I’ve rarely seen a play in which the imprint of identification and affection for the protagonists is so strong and so involving. It’s a work that makes you want to lean in, holding your breath as their fortunes shift and stir, hoping for the best but somehow always fearing the worst.”

iNews: ***** “All aspects of the production are in perfect harmony; this is quite the best evening I have spent at the National in a long time.”

Blues for an Alabama Sky continues to play at the National Theatre until the 5th November.

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