Review – Fram at the National Theatre

Thursday 17 April 2008

All credit to the National: they never are averse
To staging something radical and this play is in verse!

It’s written by a Harrison and Tony is his name -
Our “foremost theatre poet” so the NT website claims.

We tried to name some others but our efforts were in vain
And do not recommend it for a fun-filled drinking game.

Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen is the subject of the play -
A diplomat, explorer and much else along the way.

He goes up to the Arctic on a scientific jaunt
Then lectures to the public, his discoveries to flaunt.

New York and Moscow follow on in several drawn-out scenes.
They’ve even thrown in ballet as they’re using every means

To elongate the story of this Darwinist-bar-none
Who fought the Russian famine back in 1921.

The role of Fridtjof Nansen we should say without delay
is played by Jasper Britton who excels at majesté.

If our account befuddles you, be sure you’re not alone
For there are stranger things to come – as Yanks say, “hold the phone!”

For reasons that weren’t clear to us the story here is told
By Gilbert Murray, classicist, who helps the thing unfold

By getting Sybil Thorndike to ascend from out her grave
To take part in the action, starving Bolsheviks to save.

It’s kind of odd, the Whingers thought, that only just last night
they’d met De Jongh (the critic who has now become playwright)

Who in his play had also shown Miss Thorndike (great old Dame),
with Britton too, caught in the loo, the plague of Gielgud’s fame.

The op’ning 20 minutes featured much to laugh about.
With unexpected humour it was looking not quite bad

With Murray taking Sybil up the N.T. foyer lift
(that’s not a euphemism – now you’re making us quite miffed).

Twas all displayed on video and done with great élan
But then it all got serious and started down the pan.

For once we reached the ice-cap, it all grinded to a halt;
with non-existent drama (and the poet is at fault).

But most excruciating was the scene which was designed
To compare different media and how they can change minds:

Words or film or photographs (or op’ra or ballet??)
A big debate was staged about their power to persuade.

The scene limped on and on upon a slowly turning stage -
a metaphor for lack of pace? Was that upon the page?

Poor City Slicker got so bored she drifted off to sleep -
Was that the sound of snoring or had Phil begun to weep?

We emphasise the fact that though we were not having fun
The problem here was not because of any Thespian:

Sian Thomas is an actress whom we value and admire,
Her Thorndike was a tour de force of style and wit and fire.

Jeff Rawle is also excellent and so too Jasper Britton;
the acting’s not the problem – it’s the way that it’s been written.

Sian Thomas most impressed us with her big starvation scene,
Then perked the Whingers right back up by chucking up in green.

She really was impressive as she played the starving peasant,
Behind her back a table groaned with everything but pheasant.

She acts her little socks off, she shone brighter than a comet,
then topped the lot by gorging all then covering it with vomit.

The interval was quite good fun – like an exclusive club:
We saw Vanessa Redgrave spooning ice cream from a tub,

An interval decision: should we leave or should we stay?
But really it was easy, it’s so not a Whingers play.

So ninety minutes were enough and feeling somewhat sad
Our thoughts turned to the inns and bars where Merlot could be had.

Our stalls spy told us later there was little that we’d missed:
a ship rose up from ‘neath the stage but by then we were pissed.

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20 Responses to “Review – Fram at the National Theatre”

  1. webcowgirl Says:

    Your review has made me say Oh dear.
    I may regret my one free beer.
    But since it’s close to Waterloo
    I’ll soon be home once I’ve said, “Through!”


  2. No other theatre poets? Dolts!
    Why, what about old Ranjit Bolt?
    When you look at stage adaptation,
    There’s no translator in the nation
    Approaching his exuberance
    In making drama’s language dance.
    In his hands, ostentatious verse
    Is more a blessing than a curse:
    He knows it sticks out like a thumb,
    But makes it all part of the fun.
    (I know that’s not a proper rhyme,
    But nor are his, some of the time.)
    Bolt’s virtually beyond compare
    In translations of Moliere.
    For metric ease, I cite as proof
    His two translations of Tartuffe:
    The first in pent-, the second tetra-,
    And hard to say which is the bettra.
    Harrison’s long since been eclipsed,
    And may not be that sorely mipsed.


  3. @ Ian S (show-off): You win.
    We dolts will henceforth stick to gin.
    While naming Bolt may show you’re clever
    It’s still no drink game – now nor ever.

  4. Ben Says:

    A review unparalleled has now surely been provided
    At last my useless theatre-taste has been well and truly guided

    So thank you all and, once again, you’ve made my day a pleasure
    I’m glad to say that this here blog is a truly-West-End treasure


  5. My thought about 15 minutes in was “This is nothing but husky doggerel”.

    30 minutes later, I started to envy the suicide.

    With 20 minutes to go to the interval, I was wondering which limb I had to gnaw off to escape.

  6. Graham Says:

    I thought this was your best review
    Full of wit and invention
    And unlike the show itself
    Was not one big pretension

    We went to see the play last night
    It went on and on and on
    We agreed with you the words were at fault
    But the actors really shone

    Dame Sybil Thorndike was a treat
    We thought Sian really pegged it
    And when she’d finished her starving scene
    She got a big hand on her exit

    Jasper Britton was good too
    His accent, as feared, was not silly
    And I remember him in Rhinoceros
    When he showed us all his willy

    The ship was good, but came too late
    At nearly three hours in
    But we like it when they use the stage
    For up and down and spin

    As a commission we think it is
    Only something the National would do
    So we hope the critics are not too unkind
    When they call it a load of old poo

  7. Natasha Says:

    I don’t do rhyme schemes without something stronger than coffee in my system, but this made me laugh very loudly indeed, thank you.

    I’m now waiting for Helen’s haiku..


  8. To get into the spirit, preferably akwavit:

    Norwegian, proud and Darwinist, with zeal most apostolic
    Goes forth into the furthest north with suicide alcoholic
    Narrated by a classicist with rhymes most pentabolic
    I hate to summarise this way, as it sounds so vitriolic
    But the play, I fear to say, is a load of complete rubbish


  9. […] small bottle of Carlsberg and not worth the price.) Inspired by the play itself and the writeup the WestEnd Whingers did, I’m going to work on my own rhymed review for later (I’m leaning toward a […]


  10. I have to say Dear Ian
    I can’t support your paean
    Of praise for Mr Ranjit Bolt
    Whose verses very often
    Leave Moliere spinning in his coffin.

    I do applaud the Whingers’ rhyming
    Set down with skill and perfect timing.
    But while we’re talking of the Arctic
    Remember Nansen’s favourite grub
    Was fricassee of tiny cub.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7353178.stm

  11. dinsdale Says:

    did give me the opportunity to use the word farrago.

    Dull thoughts are not improved by being expressed in doggerel.

    The worst bit has to be the comparison of different media- set in the 1920’s – and – perhaps one day we’ll have pictures coming from our telephones!! Ooo Ooo Ooo

    Poor actors!

    We joined the considerable exodus at the interval.

  12. Simone Says:

    I have booked to see this in May, now I am not too sure if I should even bother!


  13. To sum up this play
    In seventeen syllables
    Is very diffic

    (with apologies to John Cooper Clarke)


  14. […] FRAM, the play we’re going to see tonight at the National, is all in verse. The review the West End Whingers have posted has got me thinking that the free beer I got with my ticket may not be nearly […]

  15. webcowgirl Says:

    Okay, I’ve got my review up – set to “The Raven” (I admit it was the idea of “Nevermore!” that drove me). I hope it’s just somewhat comparable to your magnum opus, which is a far better review than I was able to accomplish in a mere half hour of pondering. I can at least appreciate why the play was in couplets – they are MUCH easier to write!

  16. City Slicker Says:

    This is hysterical.

    It is worth going along to even the crappest productions (which this was not due to vomiting scene -on stage- and subsequent Merlot -us at NFT bar-) with you guys becuase these reviews have that inside joke value

    Love all the recent PR as well. I knew my days as a WEW stalker would pay off with fame—now waiting for the fortune!

    See you again soon I hope.

    CS x

  17. Sean Says:

    I think I liked Fram some more than you, but I’m not surprised you got into a stew.

    Yes the words do sometimes rhyme, but this variety is often fine.

    How many folks will write a verse? I don’t quite now, but I am cursed. To read your poem every day, would keep my love for verse at bay.

    Don’t be beastly to the National, it’s their remit, and that is factual. We must have plays of this type, or else where would the whingers snipe?

  18. Sam Booth Says:

    Hee hee! Aren’t you witty! Hee hee hee at your pathetic attempts at verse.

    None of you seems to know shit from sugar

    This play was not slick, not neat, badly paced, oddly structured

    But one of the best things i’ve ever seen at the national theatre. I feel like writing to thank Hytner.
    Conceptually inventive, linguistically brilliant, informative, relevant, expansive, with two or three stunning coups de theatre, and many verbal images and striking metaphors that I am sure will stay with me for a long time.
    This show towers above most of the bland pap the NT churn out. I was on the edge of my seat throughout, utterly compelled. I laughed aloud, I shed a tear or two, and am still wrestling with the ideas.
    Normally in the theatre I am bored, fidgety, and distractable.
    I can’t believe it was 3 hours long. The time flew by.

    Harrison’s verse is mighty
    Totally wasted on you

  19. Sam Booth Says:

    by the way, what you are doing is technically closer to wanking than whingeing, and you ought to change your name accordingly

  20. nick Says:

    they’re wanking about shows? Surely if that was the case, they’d enjoy it a bit more than they normally do? Unless they’re SM queens.


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