Review – Mosquitoes, National Theatre

Tuesday 25 July 2017

In which the National explores the nature of the BOGOF offer.

Though in this instance it is a case of Buy Olivia Get Olivia Free. The Olivias Colman and Williams to be precise.

They star as sisters Alice and Jenny. O1 Williams is a scientist working in Switzerland on the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, O2 Colman is the less academically-gifted, more emotional (or “stupid” as she’s often referred to) sis residing in Luton.

So as we flit between Geneva and Luton (conveniently located for cheap easyJet connections) the sisters clash with each other and practically everyone in their very different orbits. Not hard to see parallels with the particle collisions of the Collider. And that’s as much supersymmetric theories as our brains are able to process. The physics is explained, playfully patronisingly by a mad scientist figure, The Boson (Paul Hilton) but even if you struggle during these bits you can admire Paule Constable’s lighting and Finn Ross and Ian William Galloway’s video design which bring Katrina Lindsay‘s effective circular set to life. It’s always a very attractive show to look at.

Mosquitoes comes from the very busy brain of former Skins writer Lucy Kirkwood. We dismissed her with her Tinderbox some 9 years ago. That was before she came up with the rather remarkable Chimerica.

Kirkwood has done her research. Mosquitoes never coasts. There’s a lot to take in. Almost too much. Though like the LHC that’s probably partly the point. Apart from the science, there’s dementia, sibling rivalry, dementia, pregnancies, regrets, parenting issues, dementia, guilt, blame and blame-taking. And, err, Toblerone. Throw in cyber sabotage and cyber bullying, the latter of which, whilst trying not to give too much away, concerns Alice’s son Luke (Joseph Quinn – very convincingly angsty) as his own large hardon collider crashes into social media.

Did we mention Alice’s apparent underarm hair which is one of the few bits of the play that falls into the tell-but-don’t-show category? Wasn’t wig maestro Richard Mawbey available? And of course there’s all the chaos theory of intellect versus emotion debate. Love Island this is not.

Director Rufus Norris allows little room for stagnation despite the hefty 2 hour 45 minute running time. The scene changes are effectively handled and despite being staged in the round, for once, this did not bother us at all. An achievement in itself.

Kirkwood throws in plenty of clever touches: apples and horoscopes to name but two, heck, if the Toblerone had significance we probably missed that one – large black holes between the chocolate peaks? And there’s plenty of humour, especially in the very funny opening scene, though some of the comedy moments with the sisters’ incontinent former-scientist mother Karen (Amanda Boxer) are a tad clunky. A bizarre spanking scene needs to be axed although it did facilitate an on stage vomiting moment which always goes down well (or is that up?) with us. And despite being all in favour of a bit of Trump-bashing we could probably have done without a now obligatory, done-to-death gag.

To keep you on your academic toes we must raise another science; the enormous chemistry between the two Olivias who are both given thoroughly exhausting acting workouts. Their love/hate banter provides some of the most effective and enjoyable moments of the evening. The enigmatic closing scene offers a particle of hope whichever way you look at it. To explain our conflicting readings would reveal too much, and probably be way off the mark anyway.

Anyhoo, if you’re hoping to exploit the BOGOF offer, good luck. The entire run sold out long before previews began (we were at the last preview); though there are day tickets, returns and £20 Friday Rush tickets released online. The Olivia combo is clearly a potent USP. If only they’d been able to secure Olivia De Havilland too.

And if you get or already have a ticket, here’s the Hay-dron (as it’s pronounced here) Collider explained “simply”. It may be of help. Though even this still left Phil feeling somewhat discombobulated.

 

Rating

 

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5 Responses to “Review – Mosquitoes, National Theatre”

  1. Cathy Says:

    Amanda Boxer

  2. Cathy Says:

    I’m not surprised! Looking forward to seeing this next week.


  3. […] West End Whingers: “Director Rufus Norris allows little room for stagnation despite the hefty 2 hour 45 minute running time.” […]

  4. Sandown Says:

    Evidently the authoress wanted to write about sisterly rivalry and other family upsets. But the subsidised theatre generally requires a Major Issue Topic to be tacked on to any domestic ones.

    So it’s get out a paperback “Hadron Collider for Dummies”, and have a supernumerary character expound it from the side of the stage.

    The Luton/Geneva airport link is indeed expedient. But there are other topical issues of “collision” in Luton which the subsidised theatre is not nearly so keen to explore.


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