When I joined the online booking queue for Angels in America back in January, I really didn’t expect to have fallen in love with it as I have done. I did the double two parts in one day performance in May. And then I spent a fortune on return tickets so I can see it again. And I saw the NT Live Broadcasts. Seeing productions multiple times is something I’m perfectly used to, probably cause I am slightly obsessive with things are that brilliant. The main reason I go to the theatre is to be able to switch off from the outside and throw yourself into watching a piece.
Angels In America is a two part epic play by Tony Kushner set in the 1980’s in the midst of the Ronald Reagan administration as well as the Aids crisis. We follow eight New Yorkers as they navigate their lives within that time and period of history. I, briefly, mentioned the play in a small wrap up here. It’s an ambitious, hard hitting, funny, epic 7.5 hour marathon of a play that I’ve now sat through twice and would happily do so again and again. As the run at the National finishes today, I did want to let loose some of my favourite moments that may not have made it into other posts on the play.
That all the principals play more than one character.
Is this considered a spoiler? There hasn’t been enough attention drawn to this fact. I mean, Susan Brown plays like eight different characters including a rabbi, the world’s oldest living Bolsheviks and Joe Pitt’s mum across the whole eight hours. In two scenes in Millennium Approaches, Russell Tovey and Nathan Lane play ancestors of Prior’s that are thrilling and the most funniest to watch. On paper, the set up of those scenes sound bizarre but they work so well. Honestly, Nathan Lane should win awards just for his portrayal of Prior 2 and the way he says words like “fleas” and “clasp” in a British accent. And why is no one talking about Denise Gough as a republican man? It’s a fantastic and pivotal scene in Millennium, particularly in terms of the Roy/Joe relationship.
My point is, all of the actors are not only fantastic as their principal characters but the acting in this company is simply astonishing.
How funny it is
I prepared myself for a lot of things before but I didn’t anticipate how funny it would be. There are some great line deliveries from all of the actors. But I can’t help but feel Amanda Lawrence, Susan Brown, James McArdle and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett may have been overlooked in other reviews. They are all simply outstanding, particularly Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Belize who, I believe, has the funniest lines.
Any scene with Harper and Prior
I went to my first NT Platform that took place in the Lyttleton Theatre where Kate Bassett interviewed Andrew Garfield and Denise Gough about their experience performing in Angels in America. From the get go, it was very clear how well Andrew & Denise get on with each other and the love between them is undeniably reflected in the love between Prior and Harper. Truth be told, this wasn’t something I realised until I saw Perestroika a couple of weeks after at the National. They have wonderful chemistry between them. Any scene that featured the pair of them w more light hearted than most of the scenes in the play, which made their performances all the more enjoyable. You can listen to Andrew & Denise’s talk here.
Obviously, I could go on and on about the play. No doubt it will be picking up many Olivier Awards next year and deservedly so. Marianne Elliot’s production is incredibly abstract and ambitious and it pays off, in my opinion. If you get a chance, go check out the encore editions of the play
For further interesting reads I would recommend the following:
- NT Talks podcasts including talks with Marianne Elliott, Tony Kushner, Nathan Lane and Russell Tovey
- The wonderful Dr Emily Garside is starting work on a book about Angels in America and needs your responses. Emily wrote a fantastic essay that’s featured in the Angels in America programme and is an excellent writer.
Wishing the company of Angels in America the most incredible final day. Perhaps the hardest working company in London at the moment. Feeling so lucky I got to see this.
Until next time,