Review Round Up: The Motive and the Cue, National Theatre

We round up of the reviews for Jack Thorne’s play starring Mark Gatiss and Johnny Flynn.

(c)Mark Douet

The Guardian: *** “There is a real sense of remove too as we watch actors playing actors who, in turn, are playing characters in Hamlet, or unpicking the meanings of the play, scene by scene. Ultimately, this play-about-the-play leaves us wishing we had been there to see Burton in the real thing.”

Evening Standard: **** “Middleton impresses even though this Liz T is a loose assemblage of cleavage, one-liners and exposition. But again, Thorne cleverly has it both ways. While the boys bang on about art and truth it’s the two-dimensional sex bomb who really knows herself and her place in the entertainment universe.”

The Independent: **** “Your enjoyment of this show many depend on your tolerance for luvvie jokes and Shakespeare references. For theatre lovers, it is manna from heaven. But this is not just a heartfelt plea for the power of theatre, but a moving, often very funny, story about two generations teasing and provoking one another.”

iNews: **** “Sam Mendes’s beautifully realised production is full of ingenious transitions between naturalism and staginess, facilitated by designer Es Devlin, who has worked on the tours of Adele, Lorde, Beyoncé, and U2 as well as the closing ceremony at the London Olympics.”

WhatsOnStage: ***** “Sam Mendes’s smooth and sophisticated direction takes a cinematic approach, with surtitles taking us through the process of rehearsal from Day One to First Night, each with an appropriate quotation from Hamlet.”

The Telegraph: **** “A witty, deft, touching evocation of a fascinating, fraught encounter that captures the mood of those times.”

London **** “But this is Mark Gatiss’s show: he has never been better than he is here with a pitch-perfect Gielgud. Granted, he gets the best lines, from luvvie bon mots to brilliantly devastating bone-dry putdowns.”

Broadway World: ***** “Flynn has a sure-fire blast exploring Burton’s animalistic allure (and has the voice pitch-perfect). But it’s Gatiss that forms the beating heart of the show. Flickering from immense warmth, razor tongued wit, to desperate despondency and in seconds, all as seamless and smooth as spreading warm butter. It’s truly a career defining turn.”

Theatre Weekly: “Sam Mendes and Jack Thorne have together created a brilliant piece of theatre, certainly one that’s fascinating to anyone with an interest in the industry, but equally entertaining for anyone who loves a good story.  Perhaps a Burton/Olivier production of Hamlet would have been equally as tumultuous, but watching The Motive and the Cue, we should all be grateful that coin landed the way it did.”

The Stage: **** “Mark Gatiss and Johnny Flynn are mesmerising in this absorbing real-life tale of Gielgud and Burton’s Broadway Hamlet.”

The Upcoming: ***** “The Motive and the Cue is a great success. It’s interspersed with snippets from Hamlet, lovingly produced by director Sam Mendes, and gives a refreshing insight into the minds of great actors and the ways in which a play might come to life during rehearsals. An easy recommendation, all the way.”

Time Out: *** “It’s entertaining, with a rousing finale, but I wish ‘The Motive and the Cue’ had more of the grit and weirdness of ‘Hamlet’, not just borrowed its poetry. The third act of Thorne’s play is a fairly pat bit of triumph over adversity. ‘The Motive and the Cue’ may be a love letter to theatre, but in the end it feels a little too Hollywood.”

London Theatre1: **** “It could, perhaps, be a tad pacier. But overall, it’s a fascinating portrait of a real life story, executed with a mixture of subtlety and vehemence. A full range of human emotion is laid bare in this worthy and worthwhile production. As neither Gielgud nor Burton would have said, it’s a good ‘un.”

The Motive and the Cue will continue to play at the National Theatre until the 15th July 2023.

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