We take a look at what critics have had to say about Peter Morgan’s play, starring Will Keen and Tom Hollander.

(c)Marc Brenner

Broadway World: **** “Morgan wrote the play well before Putin began his illegal invasion of Ukraine and after a myriad of documentaries, news items and podcasts, it feels as though the play is not telling us much that we don’t know already. However, the subject matter remains fascinating and Rupert Goold’s snappy direction maintains a focused and sharp pace, despite the two hour, forty minute running time.”

The Stage: *** “Tom Hollander and Will Keen astonish as Berezovsky and Putin in West End transfer of Peter Morgan’s play.”

Evening Standard: **** “The script is consistently witty and smart but inevitably, with so much information and history to pack in, some of the dialogue is on the nose. Alexander Litvinenko (Josef Davies), another patriot, repeatedly explains his backstory as the only honest agent in Russia’s FSB security force. Later, working in security for Berezovsky in Britain, he announces he’s meeting someone “for tea” that the audience already knows will be laced with polonium. But this is a minor quibble in a sharp, taut, political drama that enriches the West End.”

London Theatre1: ***** “Yes, Peter Morgan’s excellent play is instructive and thoroughly absorbing. In fact, it’s so good, so clinically intensive, so disturbingly prophetic that it could never be staged within Putin’s Russia. Though his response might well be to the scenario that portrays him as a psychopath: “You’re underselling me”.”

British Theatre.com: **** “For all its brashness and power, there are scenes of tenderness between Berezovsky and his maths Professor Perelman, beautifully realised by Ronald Guttman representing a Russia, possibly romanticised, now beyond reach for Berezovsky. With the manipulation of the news media, the Russian expansion into satellite states, corrupt legal systems and leaders, the play thrums with frightening topicality.  Yet the quality of the writing never makes it feel like a lecture, the human cost is kept central.”

The Telegraph: **** “The star reprises his role as Boris Berezovsky, the ‘kingmaker’ who was instrumental in Putin’s ascent and lived to regret it.”

The Arts Desk: **** “Goold’s rapid-fire direction recalls his Enron in the scene switches and character doublings, who include an extraordinary Yeltsin lookalike in Paul Kynman. I particularly loved the moment the female judge who sternly rejects Berezovsky’s billion-dollar case against Abramovich (Evelyn Miller) rips off her wig and gown to become a bar hostess handing the dejected Boris a bottle of vodka. A slightly laboured sideplot about the child Berezovsky’s Nobel-worthy mathematical mind at least brings us the mellow, gently fatalistic old Professor Perelman of Ronald Guttman.”

Theatre Weekly: “Patriots is a fine example of what Peter Morgan does best, it takes the key facts that most people already know, and shapes and entire narrative around them.  How much of what happens on stage is actually true is anybody’s guess, but regardless, it’s riveting from start to finish.”

West End Best Friend: **** “The only reason we’ve opted for a four-star review is this story’s ending. Although, undoubtably factually correct, it left us feeling mildly dissatisfied. There are no true consequences for any of the characters. Perhaps that’s the point – the show reinforces that these atrocities are going unpunished as we write this review. Yet coming away from the play, it’s almost as if it is missing a true conclusion.”

The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “In Patriots, we are shown people who each believe they are being patriotic – Berezovsky through reform and money, Putin through anti-corruption measures and loyalty to the state – but whose own personalities cloud their ideals. But with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showing a side of Putin merely hinted at in Morgan’s script, it feels like this work, compelling though it is, does not reveal as much as it thinks it does.”

City Am: “I didn’t quite find myself hankering for more, though. Perhaps it’s Morgan’s writing, which feels authentic and truthful but tries to obligingly fit in too many details. It could have benefitted from taking a moment for characters to explore an instant, or feeling, in real time. It ends up a little too linear, which, of course, war and dictators rarely are.”

The Upcoming: ***** “Hollander does an excellent job in his role as Boris Berezovsky. He is nothing short of revelatory, effortlessly capturing the multifaceted nature of a man driven by ambition while wrestling with his conscience. The actor portrays dances with finesse, delicately balancing Berezovsky’s charm, vulnerability and unyielding determination. Through his commanding presence on stage, he takes the audience on an emotional journey, unravelling the complexities that propel his actions.”

Patriots continues to play at the Noel Coward Theatre until the 19th August. To book tickets click here.


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