Photos by Stephen Cummiskey
Last week, I paid a visit to my favourite theatre, The National theatre. After her critically acclaimed show, The Flick, the National Theatre is currently playing home to another Annie Baker play. This time, her 2015 Off- Broadway hit play John has arrived in the Dorfman. John follows a couple who are struggling to maintain their relationship as they head to a bed and breakfast in Gettysburg for the weekend. They are greeted by the owner Mertis and the eyes of hundreds of dolls, scattered around the house.
John @ the National Theatre
Tickets and more information: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/john
I must compliment the impressive set design by Chloe Lamford that is beautifully detailed and enables the audience to feel as if they are looking through a window into the relationship between Jenny and Elias. Not only emphasised by the off stage sound effects but also Mertis literally opening the curtains at the start and end of each act. The huge scale of the box set stage the production team have squeezed into the smallish Dorfman Theatre is certainly impressive, where in my experience I have only seen shows that have made use of the encircled auditorium rather than half of it.
Unfortunately, overall I found the play itself to be a 3 hour and 20 minute long snooze fest. Even though the four actors were very good with what they were given, I just found the plot was way too slow for my liking. Particularly for a stage production. The amount of awkward silences that endured between the characters could’ve cut the run time down by at least half an hour. I felt the relationship storyline was kind of predictable. A few moments happened in the show that were unexplained, like the amount of stacked dolls and two instances of a piano going off for about 10 minutes at a time.
I must say, June Watson is brilliant as Mertis’ blind friend Genevieve who visits for her weekly reading. Even though she is very funny and often steals the show, there is one scene where she takes up half of the interval with a monologue about her going mad. But this was the only remotely interesting part of the show for me as it did tie in all the strange moments that were happening. The rest of the company perform well, but not well enough to stand out as spectacularly.
Personally, I wouldn’t run back to see this. If you like slow burners, then this play is possibly for you. But, in my opinion, I’d rather have watched it as a film rather than a play.
Until next time