We round up the reviews for Ian Rickson’s production of Penelope Skinner’s latest play starring Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas.

(c)Manuel Harlan

The Stage: **** “Endearing performances from Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James provide a warm heart to this wistful comedy-drama.”

Culture Whisper: *** “Skinner’s story and Rickson’s production pulls itself together in its final moments. If we can forget all the waffle in the middle, including a shoehorned in bit of clowning from James (props to illusion designer John Bulleid), Kate’s final scene is chilling in its probability.”

Broadway World: ** “There are some darkly funny lines and a harrowing argument between Kate and Greg is shrill, but convincing. I’m sure many working mothers will nod in agreement at some of the points presented on stage, but the relentless suggestion that nothing at all has changed since #MeToo and that women are more compromised than ever is reductive to both sexes, whatever the playwright’s intentions might be.”

Theatre Weekly: “The cast all do good job, but seem uncomfortable in their roles, with the exception of Sara Powell as Chris and Lily James as Kate.  The star casting here means that Lyonesse is pretty much guaranteed a sold out run, but audiences are likely to be more enamoured with the cast than the story, which is enjoyable enough, if a little underwhelming.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “The whole thing is a bit baggy and broad, moving suddenly in different directions, but it’s bound together by Ian Rickson’s sensitive, detailed direction. Its themes are riveting, and although the final destination isn’t entirely satisfying, it’s hard not to enjoy the journey especially in the company of so strong a cast.”

Time Out: *** ” Really ‘Lyonesse’ feels like an imperfect but worthwhile play that would have fit in well at the Royal Court 15 or so years ago, where it might have run for a couple of months without too much pressure. Dumped straight on the West End stage, with a starry cast, its flaws feel magnified. But it’s funny, and at best it has a savage clarity.”

London Theatre.co.uk: *** “There’s so much to explore here, but neither Skinner nor director Ian Rickson ever settle on a consistent tone. Lyonesse has some good moments of satire – mainly via the always-excellent Doon Mackichan as morally bankrupt film boss Sue – and even a strange slapstick sequence involving spilled tea and a fire. It also teases a lesbian romance between Kate and Elaine’s poet neighbour Chris (warmly inhabited by Sara Powell).”

The Independent: *** “We’ve mostly banished the casual sexism of the Noughties, but are women actually in control of their own narrative? Absolutely not, argues Penelope Skinner’s cynical, fascinating, flawed new play, one that’s soaked in pessimism and salty Cornish sea air.”

The Guardian: ** “Directed by Ian Rickson, there are some charged scenes, entertaining social satire and some fine acting from its starry cast, Scott Thomas leading the way with her charming performance as the eccentric Elaine. But too much remains unexplored in a schematic second act that veers off in a different direction and flattens out the slightly surreal, eerie edges of the first act.”

The Telegraph: *** “The stars acquit themselves well in Penelope Skinner’s new drama, but its demonising of the entire male sex gives it the whiff of a lecture.”

Evening Standard: * “But mostly this seems like an assemblage of half-baked ideas and lazy conceits. Why Lyonesse? Why does Act One end in slapstick? Why does the supposedly raging sea only hit the side of the house twice? Why, above all, did Scott Thomas, James and Rickson sign up to this? As star vehicles go, it’s a car crash.”

The Arts Desk: ** “Penelope Skinner’s new play is one of the most eccentric things I’ve seen in a long time. It’s undoubtedly entertaining, with an engagingly bonkers attempt by Kristin Scott Thomas to navigate an almost impossible role, perched between victim, diva and madwoman, equally reminsicent of Norma Desmond and one of the posh recluses from Grey Gardens.”

iNews: ** “Watching Lyonesse is akin to tumbling down a never-ending rabbit hole of bewilderment. I spent the interminable-seeming first half struggling to believe that writer Penelope Skinner intends us to take any of this even halfway seriously – and then the even-longer-seeming second wondering precisely when we would be put out of our misery. Lyonesse requires three hours to arrive at exactly the point we imagine it will within the first 10 minutes.”

Lyonesse continues to play at the Harold Pinter Theatre until the 23rd December. To book tickets click here.


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