Review – Greenland, National Theatre

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Scientists have warned yet again that in the future all new plays produced by the subsidised theatre will be crap.

One leading scientist said last night, “This trend has been evident for some time now. It was hitherto mostly confined to low population areas such as the Cottesloe where only a handful of people were affected but now it’s spreading to the Lyttelton.

“It looks like a hockey stick. I could show you on a big chart if you like although it wouldn’t be inherently dramatic – more like a lecture -and I might as well just beat you about the head with the hockey stick instead and achieve the same degree of subtlelty”.

Another scientist warned: “And just look at how many writers it takes to change a low-energy light-bulb, I mean, write a play these days. There was that thing with the long title at the Lyric Hammersmith and Love Never Dies and now Greenland which took four people to write it:  Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne. We predict that in the future it will take 750 people to write a play, even one as bad as this”.

The first scientist then warned: “And in the future all productions will try to look like they are directed by Rupert Goold but come across as TIE with a budget”.

The second scientist explained patiently and with only a hint of exasperation that climate change is a really, really big and important topic but that that doesn’t mean you can get away without bothering to write something decent around it. “We had all this out with Earthquakes In London,” the scientist sniffed.

A scientist – can’t remember which one – was saddened at the lack of balance in the writing. “What no-one has considered is the benefits of climate change. Rising sea levels mean that one of the first things to be swept away when the Thames bursts its banks will be the National Theatre. Every cloud…”

One scientist considered saying something along the lines of “”Global warming? Global yawning more like!” but thought better of it.

Both scientists were reminded that there is usually a very good reason why a production is staged without an interval and in retrospect the team may come to regret including a noisy, ten minute rain storm using real (presumably recycled) water 90 minutes in.  Even Phil (who is quite fastidious in visiting the toilet 30 seconds before curtain up and shaking out every last drop) was very nearly caught short.

All the scientists (including this one and this one) gathered at yesterday’s post-show symposium were unanimous in the view that the appearance of a polar bear was a breathtaking coup de theatre of Danton’s Death by guillotine proportions and that it alone was worth the price of admission but that the rest of the play could be completely cut.

The only other ray of hope for the future was the poster which by recent National Theatre standards is quite imaginative. One scientist (Phil) describe it as “evocative”, claiming that it hinted at a baby in the womb, or genitalia, or something created after playing with a Spirograph. Phil certainly never found his borealis despite many youthful happy hours fiddling with his (Spirograph, not genitalia).

Scientists concluded that the best course the National Theatre could adopt to help combat climate change would be to leave the Lyttelton dark for the next few months.

This was a first preview but all the scientists agreed that if it walks like a dog and barks like a dog and wags its tail like a dog on the first preview then it will almost certainly still be a dog when it opens despite what the “ghastly” Michael Codron might think.

If however, it walks like a duck and quacks like duck, then that’s probably Phil you’re looking at.


Two out of Five: slightly corked or vinegary

(one of which was purely for the polar bear)


27 Responses to “Review – Greenland, National Theatre”

  1. TTC Says:

    Balls. I’m going this evening…

    and having spent several days in front of a computer in a darkened bunker “fiddling” with Lorenz attractors, the poster design makes me break out in cold sweats.


  2. addicted to theatre Says:

    Ugh, I’m going on Friday. The Cottesloe disease (half-baked agitprop buried under technical whizzery) has spread to the Lyttleton. Though to be fair, you did see it on the first night of previews. Maybe if I pray to St Laurence of Olivier it will improve by the weekend.

  3. ANDY HEDGES Says:

    The worst show I have ever had the misfortune to attend. I walked out after half an hour.

  4. Yes, I’m afraid we have a new and very Draconian policy in place vis a vis comments. We are only publishing la creme de la creme now.

  5. philip reardon Says:

    Watching green paint dry? Watching Greenland? Discuss.

    Patronising, preach-y, outdated (things have changed since 2009), over-long etc. I could cite 1st year drama students and devised issue based theatre et al, my synopsis below.

    I’d rather watch green paint dry, it’s honest and inoffensive.

  6. pb Says:

    Whingers – do you feel an obligation to go to everything at the National? This one was always going to be a stinker, no?
    Thanks anyway for confirming my views and saving me a lot of time.

  7. TooCloseToYourMum Says:

    Please tell me there is actually a polar bear involved

  8. Grumpster Says:

    Normally I love the National. But I don’t go to the theatre to be lectured at, althouh the envirostocracy – of whom there were a lot there judging by the number of anoraks and beards – clearly loved it. Perhaps I’m just too urban.

  9. paulthepsychologist Says:

    The polar bear was fantastic, the highlight of the show. Well, actually it was one up from a pantomime horse (and this from the same NT that brought us Northern Lights, argh.). The song and dance routine would not have disgraced a sixth form end of year revue. The rest of Greenland was pretty poor. By that I mean awful awful awful. Boring, preachy, right-on, cliche ridden………..

  10. JustNathan Says:

    I wished I could ‘exeunt, pursued by a bear’ last night, but was trapped in the middle of row B of the Stalls. This was pretentious, outdated crap of the highest order, which does a disservice to public understanding of climate change.

    We’re all doomed…

  11. […] goodweek-badweek TweetBad week for Greenland. The new play from the National Theatre received an unanimous thumbs down from bloggers who saw it on its opening preview. The critics will, of course, love […]

  12. Boz Says:

    What the buggery balls is happening at the NT? It used to be so reliable (in my eyes). I have more of less upped sticks to the Royal Court.

    *is worried about Frankenstein and Benedict Cumberbatch’s amazing hair*

  13. Show Time Polar Bear Says:

    Greenland. Bloodied head from your icy first pre/review and the rising tide of hostile blogs. Night out for the good-time urban irrelevants, then. Shame you hated it. The news is that global warming doesn’t care much for your smarty-pants hedonistic cynicism. either!
    The second preview was better, and the third better still. Global warming at the National is such, such a soft target. You try writing an enthralling drama about the subject if you’re that clever.
    Keep at it NT. You’ve a flaming duty to dramatise big issues, so use our taxes to tax us. The Greenland message was starkly clear through the medium. Adolescent dream world punters should play away.

    • Ed Snack Says:

      Shame on you for approving such pointless propaganda paid for by the blood of taxpayers. Big issues, the big issues are the blatant dishonesty of those with vested interests promoting yet more of the same shite.

  14. […] unlikely to shift anyone’s perspective”; to pointlessly bad – 2 stars from West End Whingers, who make little constructive criticism except the unsubtle hint that both sides of the argument […]

  15. Archie Says:

    I wanted the world to end half way through this offering and prayed the Sun would come out and incinerate the cast.

  16. Uncle Velociraptor Says:

    What is up with the NT posters? They’re uniformly awful.

  17. maggiemobbs Says:

    Went last week, still finding bits of tissue stuck to my personal effects…is that legal? I went because I got a cheap ticket in the centre of the one and nines and thought well, how bad can it be…and it wasn’t due to an over energetic cast; what are they on??although I did have moments of distraction during the two hours and almost missed the Polar Bear’s entrance as was away with the Fairies. Loved the Guillemots too,and the way people and things kept coming up from the stage and precariously hanging over us. Came out of the auditorium with pages of script and pieces of tissue stuck to me which took quite a while to dispose of, unlike the play, which still makes me unsure what to do for the best for our environment, well almost!

  18. […] it has received a poor response from theatre critics, including a total panning from the Telegraph, an amusing hatchet job from theatrical bloggers the West End Whingers and more nuanced critiques from the Guardian, the […]

  19. Thomas Says:

    I got something from Green Land… i dunno what but i did, me and my friend kinda stumbled upon it being student we were planing to go see frankenstien, however the tickets had all sold out… so we tentitly steped into Green Land… Did i enjoy it?.. No, but i dont think thats the point.
    Maybe the mix of political theater and domestic situations didnt mix well
    But i say go forr it really good play
    the ending gave me the chills..

  20. […] they use the form of their blog to do something that can’t be done elsewhere (would you get this, this or this in the Guardian or The Times? Of course you wouldn’t but, with the […]

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