Review: This House, National Theatre London, The Lark

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Who has the best theater in the SF Bay Area?

Marin, thanks to the “live” National Theatre of London telecasts screened at the Lark Theater.

OK, Berkeley, San Francisco, and a few other nearby cities also get these broadcasts of NT Live, which is in its third season and is shown in over 700 cinemas in 22 countries around the globe. So, we ain’t that special. No, really.

Do be forewarned that by the time you read my comments on James Graham’s new play This House you will have missed your opportunity to see it at the Lark. However, you can check other locations, such as Berkeley, for their show dates. See here for details: http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/venues/2004133066-rialto-cinemas-elmwood.

This is a fast-paced, high-decibel political drama that is not to be missed. Despite the fact that the couple sitting next to me left the theater at intermission, I give the production an A-. Why did they leave? I swear I didn’t tell them they weren’t special.

The play covers Parliament and its back offices during the years of 1974-1979, which were some of the most turbulent years in Britain’s political history due to labor unrest, high inflation, stagnant economy, bombing in Northern Ireland, and many other causes, including out of control politicos.

Fortunately, for those of us who did not know anything about hung parliaments or the importance of whips (please, this is not San Francisco), the production started with a short video orienting us to the basics of the British system relevant to that time period.

The government was about as close to dysfunctional as humanly possible. The Labor Party clung on to power by a miniscule minority that shrunk as its members dropped dead. Literally, every vote mattered, and everything was about making deals with minority parties to cobble together enough votes to pass their bills, while the opposition did everything in their power to hinder them.

Nearly three hours long, the drama plunges forward at a frantic pace complete with yelling, cussing PMs, rapid-fire scene transitions, choreographed Parliament frenzies, and a full rock band which belts David Bowie tunes from the rafters. Well-researched, much of the story is true to life, and recreates the tension and feel of the atmosphere.

Excellent acting. You almost forget they are actors and not politicians…No wonder the couple next me had to leave the theater.

***

The next production is June 13 & 15: The Audience, staring Helen Mirren, as Queen Elizabeth II.

See here for details: http://www.larktheater.net/special-events/national-theatre-london

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