Thursday, May 19, 2005

Theatre of Blood, National Theatre

Lavish romp, based on seventies cult film, in which a deranged old ham murders a gaggle of critics after they murder his season of Shakespeare. Each murder is a twist on a famous Shakespearean death scene - Shylock gets his pound of flesh, Joan of Arc gets frizzled alive in a hairdressing salon, to mention just two. The subject matter obviously makes it hard for an uninhibited judgement, but luckily the play, and especially the performances, are spot on. Jim Broadbent, as the murderer is fantastic, spouting amateur-dramatic Shakespeare endlessly but still garnering sympathy. The critics are nicely judged in their seventies get up, each one's character faintly representing the paper they work for. The set, the proscenium arch of a delapidated theatre, sited in the austere Lyttleton, is a nice touch. Overall, its great fun and the added self-referential element - how the about-to-open National Theatre will ruin/save theatre - made it more involving than a straight black farce. That the point they may have been making was lost to those of us lacking theatrical pedigree, didnt matter.