Dance of Death (Lyric Shaftesbury)
are breaking down all over the West End at the moment, with Dawn
French and Eileen Atkins both losing their husbands in My
Brilliant Divorce and Honour
respectively. But now The Dance of Death proves that a fate
far worse than separating may actually be to stay together.
in a Samuel Beckett play, there's the strangled laughter of
fearing death even as it is hoped for..."
this bleakly brilliant August Strindberg classic - subtly and frequently
comically rendered in a new version by the versatile American playwright
Richard Greenberg (whose Three Days of Rain and Take Me
Out) were Donmar Warehouse hits - we watch a couple desperately
bonded not by love but by mutual contempt.
isn't love, as the pop classic has it, that keeps them together,
but intense loathing, and it's going to be a fight to the death
- "I now know that only death can prize us apart,"
the wife admits.
when she is told that her husband might die of his heart condition,
she replies brightly, "Oh, thank God!"
in a Samuel Beckett play, there's the strangled laughter of fearing
death even as it is hoped for, and the endless hours of despair
and fury to be filled in the meantime.
are far from easy company this couple, to each other, to their guest,
or to us. But fortunately, the top-grade actors who take us on this
long day's journey into night and the following day make it an utterly
de la Tour: brittle and brilliant
McKellen, returning to the London stage for the first time in five
years, is stunning as the husband in his fire, fury and despair;
and the brittle, brilliant Frances de la Tour matches him in her
extraordinary, withering disdain as his wife.
their toxically claustrophobic dynamic is interrupted by the arrival
of Owen Teale's visitor Kurt, he becomes as helplessly trapped in
the middle of their violent, verbal game-playing as we are.
at least he, like us, can get away at the end. It's a relief to
finally leave them to their private, self-made hell.
Dance of Death is at the Lyric Shaftesbury, Shaftesbury Avenue W1
until 31 May. Tickets £12.50 - £37.50. Box Office: 0870