Review – Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Why on earth would anyone want to go to see Clybourne Park, the latest offering at the Royal Court? These are the only reasons we could think of off the tops of our heads.

  1. Bruce Norris‘s (The Pain And The Itch) play is thought-provoking
  2. And squirm-inducing
  3. And riotously funny.
  4. It’s confidently directed by Dominic Cooke,
  5. and pleasingly performed.
  6. It taps into Andrew’s (and presumably some other people’s) fascination with house histories –
  7. And scratches at the taboos about how we may or may not discuss race.
  8. It’s intelligent…
  9. …But never boasts about it.
  10. The first act is slightly overplayed melodrama.
  11. It boasts two wonderful sets by Robert Innes-Hopkins. Or one wonderful set, depending on which way you look at it. Even though both Whingers were independently unsettled by the curtain rods which seemed a bit surprising for 1959.
  12. It turns out that in addition to his comic talents Martin Freeman (Tim in The Office, Watson in Sherlock) has an extraordinary gift for transforming himself. If we hadn’t known he was in it we would probably have spent the first 20 minutes bugged by a sense of faint recognition, unable to concentrate until the penny dropped.
  13. The ensemble cast is turbo-powered.
  14. It features the hilarious Sophie Thompson (Emma Thompson’s sister)
  15. And Lucian MsamatiMr JLB Matekoni from  The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
  16. But even the people you haven’t heard of are good. We particularly enjoyed Sarah Goldberg who plays
  17. A deaf character.
  18. There’s a wonderful fifties frock buoyed up by petticoats aplenty.
  19. It’s rare that Andrew spots a kitchen gadget or home dining accessory that he doesn’t already possess, let alone one that is so integral to text. Now he simply MUST have a chafing dish. Sadly Peter Jones was closed by the time the curtain came down…
  20. … and it was a REAL curtain, not a metaphorical one…
  21. and that REAL curtain came down a respectable 2h 10 minutes after it went up…
  22. But we probably wouldn’t have minded much if it had gone on longer.
  23. £10 Mondays are sponsored by French Wines (sadly we went on a Tuesday but anyway French Wines are quite heavily sponsored by the West End Whingers so it would have been too confusing).
  24. A woman sitting two rows behind poked Andrew on the shoulder and said “Are you two my favourite theatre critics?” in earshot of the Sunday Telegraph’s Tim Walker…
  25. … before going on to announce that she’d rather given up on Charles Spencer. We liked Penny (for that was her name).
  26. Not only is ice-cream consumed on stage, but from a lovingly recreated 1950s carton.
  27. It made us wonder how many Whingers it would take to change a light bulb (suggestions please)…
  28. … And why a white woman is like a [whisper] feminine item (no suggestions please).
  29. If this doesn’t win a slew of awards and get a transfer we’ll eat our (worn at jaunty angles) trilbies.
  30. Do NOT be tempted to read anything else about the play, not even what’s on the RC website. Much, much better that you know nothing more about it.
  31. It reminds you of why you go to the theatre; it is the antidote to Danton’s Death (thanks @adventuresofboz for this perspective).
  32. Discussing it in the bar afterwards we were hovering between a four and a five but in the cold light of day we are still thinking about it and even considering going again so on balance it’s a…


Rating score 5-5 our cups overfloweth

21 Responses to “Review – Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre”

  1. danhutton Says:

    Agree with every word of this list. Clybourne Park really is a fantastic play and shows why theatre must be kept alive. Your five glasses is certainly justified and let’s hope this continues for a lot longer than the short run it has at the moment!

  2. Boz Says:

    Being mentioned as an aside in a WEW review has, basically, made my month.

    (Totally upstaged by Penny, though).

    Can’t wait to see this.

  3. webcowgirl Says:

    Oh my goodness! I think your 5 glasses were … a bit too full, but you know me, for 5 glasses I’m shooting for Judi Dench in, not just “a” Shakespeare, but an excellent Shakespeare. I also kind of didn’t get why people were laughing so much at this play, as I wasn’t finding it nearly as funny as they did. I could only assume that the neighborhood planning scenes weren’t giving them horrible flashbacks like they did for me.

  4. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    er…because it was hilarious and the cast played to the hilt?
    Or did Penny just put us in the right mood?

  5. David Cottis Says:

    ‘feint recognition’?

    You mean you’d be faking it?

  6. Martin Baker Says:

    Penny must have impressively long arms.

  7. TheTTCritic Says:

    I’m completely with you on this one. I thought this absolutely terrific. Even if it isn’t to all tastes, little in London is so intelligently provocative and funny to boot.

    The Royal Court need to give their marketing team a kicking however, nothing I’d read or seen made me want to see this. Hopefully the reviews will help matters, I’ll lose my faith in London’s theatregoers if this doesn’t start selling out.


  8. Betsy Says:

    Ah well, it’s the West End Whingers. Always suckers for the cheap gags…

  9. Caroline Says:

    I’ve been shocked recently to see reduced-price tickets on offer at the SOLT booth in Leicester Square – for a Royal Court production and a Bruce Norris play. I hope the run will now sell out as you’d expect.

  10. Lord Andrew Lloyds Slipper Sniffer Says:

    Particularly liked #24.

    How many Whingers does it take to change a lightbulb? You can’t change a lightbulb, you can only suggest ways it could be improved.

  11. Penny Cooper Says:

    The cold light of day bought the right rating – extremely entertaining and thought-provoking, trusses, chafing dishes, Sophie Thompson on top form and a mention in my favourite critics review – MY cup overfloweth too.
    Penny (for it is she with the long arms)

  12. […] week for The Royal Court who have a hit on their hands with Clybourne Park. They even got the Whingers on side. Of course, the world will await the Sans Taste view (aka The Official Verdict) on Tuesday […]

  13. JR Says:

    The play was wonderful here in NY (as was The Pain and the Itch.)

    If you visit NYC, you should see something at Playwrights’ Horizons (except as a donor and subscriber, I have no connection) because they presented both those shows, and more important, about 80-90% of what they do is worth seeing. It’s a phenomenal average.

  14. Tom Says:

    Justice is done and it is now sold out. The play is by turns hilarious and unsettling: half of yesterday’s Friday night audience screamed in shock at one of the jokes. There is a particularly daft review by the Spectator’s theatre critic, who refers to “a pair of plays”, talks about “yawning through the first play” and seems not to realise that he saw two inseparable acts of one play.

  15. ja Says:

    Concur with all the favourable comments above. The play is painfully funny, in both senses of the word painful. Definitely 5 brimming glasses of merlot.

  16. Roger Risborough Says:

    Point 29 prophecy already come true with transfer announcement the other day. Two hours after squeezing past Mike Leigh on the way out my mind is still fizzing, trying to tie up lives, lines and links between the two acts, and between the play and the world. The great thing for a cast playing 2 roles each is that it can REALLY emphasise how good the actors really are – and in, this they all ARE. Funny, thought-provoking, perfectly performed.

  17. Boz Says:

    Loved it! Experience marred only slightly by waving to my friends on the other side of the upper circle and an another gentlemen perhaps thinking I was waving at him. All manner of misunderstandings ensued.

  18. You’re kidding, right? Over-written, appallingly over-played, smug self-congratulating performances, obvious sitcom-esque direction and timing, and a lot of non-Radio-4 approved jokes at the end to give the theatre ladies a bit of a transgressive thrill. It works as farce, but its pretensions to being a significant play about race relations is as tasteless a joke as the one about tampons. And now an Olivier Award for Best New Play? Ye Gods. Give Bruce Norris a chafing dish instead.

    Well, if nothing else, it shows that the Whingers have a Madame Arcati eye for (a) what’ll make a profitable West End transfer and (b) strange headware. It’s a seriously missed opportunity to show up a seriously overrated play, though.

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