Review Round Up: The Band’s Visit, Donmar Warehouse

Discover what critics have had to say about the European premiere of the Tony Award winning musical…

(c)Marc Brenner

Broadway World: ***** “Longurst directs with refreshing accuracy and delicate sophistication, creating visual dynamics that make the space feel immense. The contributions of a cultural consultant (Lina Khatib), an Arabic musical consultant (Attab Haddad), and two dialect coaches solidify Yazbek’s well-rounded, stereotype-free, wholesome piece of theatre and establish this production as one for the books.”

The Guardian: **** “Even scene changes thrum with character in Michael Longhurst’s open-hearted production. I loved spending time with his poker-faced cast, masters of shrug and eye roll. They include Michal Horowicz’s miserable wife, too worn down to sing, Marc Antolin’s drifting manboy, Sargon Yelda’s attentive composer and Ashley Margolis, waiting by the phone like a lonesome muppet.”

Evening Standard: **** “Many performers in this large cast get few or no lines. The acting is iffy at the edges and the pacing is off at the start. But the humane spirit of this show is irresistible and the core group of musicians and actor-players very tight indeed. When the band finally gets to perform its signature tune at the end – with virtuoso solos for clarinet, goblet drum and the lute-like oud – I’m amazed the audience didn’t mob the stage and dance along.”

Time Out: **** “Instead it’s a romantic, inventive, deeply disarming show about how we’re all defined by the need for connection. Given it was a hit on Broadway, I’m sure it could be a hit on the West End. But I wonder how easy it would be to hold this sprawling and uniquely talented international ensemble together; and, frankly, it’s hard to see how such an intimate show could possibly have the same impact in a big, formal West End playhouse. Catch it before it slips away into the night.”

The Stage: *** “Tony-winning musical about an Egyptian orchestra stranded in an Israeli desert town charms in its London staging.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “With a gentle sweetness of heart, Michael Longhurst’s production proves to be charm itself. Wisely casting internationally, the gorgeously voiced Miri Mesika as Dina and Alon Moni Aboutboul as Tewfiq lead powerfully, and Yazbek’s score draws effectively on influences from the region. Soutra Gilmour’s set with its revolve opens the space to allow room for the onstage musicians to do their thing and in supporting roles, there’s beautiful work from Sharif Afifi, Peter Polycarpou and Harel Glazer. If only ignoring the political were so easy in real life.”

The Times: **** “These characters seem to be on the long and winding road to nowhere. And, strange as it seems, you want to accompany them every step of the way. Released 15 years ago, Eran Kolirin’s indie film, The Band’s Visit, was the oddly hypnotic tale of an Egyptian police band which, during a goodwill visit to Israel, turns up in the wrong town. Stuck in a dead end community in the desert, the musicians are forced to strike up a relationship of sorts with their reluctant hosts.”

(c) Marc Brenner

WhatsOnStage: *** “This new production also features the most terrific band of such skill and energy that it sweeps you in its embrace. I’d have been happy to listen to their exhilarating mixture of Arabic music, Klezmer and soft jazz all night – and even to get up and dance. But the story their talents are wound around is very slight.”

The Telegraph: ***** “Here’s a musical made of magic to send the soul soaring. There are no big numbers, no razzmatazz chorus lines, there’s barely much of a story. Yet this bijou show won 10 Tonys in 2018 and now arrives in a new, effortlessly seductive production by Michael Longhurst featuring a crack Israeli and Arab cast. It’s one of the best things he’s staged at the Donmar.”

All That Dazzles: ***** “Stunning songs, a heart-warming story and an incredible cast make this one of the best musicals London has seen this year. A breathtakingly beautiful show, after this all too fleeting trip, let’s hope they return for a repeat visit soon.”

Theatre Weekly: “It is The Band’s Visit ordinariness that makes it extraordinary; it doesn’t follow the typical structure of a musical, and the story is simple but profound.  This is a vital piece of theatre, and the arrival of The Band’s Visit in London is something for us all to hear about it, because it is important.”

West End Best Friend: **** “As transfers go, The Band’s Visit has benefited from scaling back to make its home at the Donmar. It’s a beautiful show and one we’d recommend for a moment to breathe, to escape into something where there’s no pressure to do anything but enjoy and get lost in something quite beautiful.”

Culture Whisper: **** “Its greatest strength may also be its weakness, the banality does lead to some predictable exchanges. But that is the point. With a subject matter and setting so accustomed to grand narratives about good and evil, something so mundane becomes quietly subversive, especially when it oozes with this much charm.”

London Theatre.co.uk: **** “Soutra Gilmour’s set gives them free rein, with minimal furniture and stone steps at the back where the band congregate, while Anna Watson’s lighting smoothly shifts us into the intimate, confessional night where kindess, patience, just listening helps to unburden the soul, climaxing in the yearning plea of song “Answer Me”. Not much happens here – and yet everything happens. Captivating.”

The Band’s Visit continues to play at the Donmar Warehouse until the 3rd December.

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