4 February 2020

The Visit at National Theatre was captivation and surprisingly funny


It is not unusual for me to forget why I have booked to see a show but this time I even denied that I was going when asked a few days beforehand! It was only when I flipped the electronic calendar over to the new week that I was reminded of my decision to go.

That decision would have been based on the play's synopsis (Claire Zachanassian, improbably beautiful and impenetrably terrifying, returns to her hometown as the world’s richest woman. The locals hope her arrival signals a change in their fortunes, but they soon realise that prosperity will only come at a terrible price.) and the presence of Hugo Weaving from The Matrix and many other lesser films. National Theatre was another draw as they certainly know how to put on a show there and have the technology to do so.

That was enough for me to push the boat out a little and go for Olivier Circle seat A23 at £49.

Learning the The Visit was almost four hours long was a surprise too but The Lehman Brothers had been very long too and that was brilliant so I was more cautious than worried.

The play quickly set into a pleasing routine. The story was gripping, the characters interesting, the dialogue surprisingly funny and the set excellent. The story moved slowly allowing the dialogue plenty of space to play and dance and the time flew past.

Lesley Manville was extraordinary as Claire Zachanassian, the woman making the visit and the award nominations will flood in. I don't know when or why the change was made but in the poster she has brown hair which became white on stage. The white hair really worked as it made her look even more striking than her dress and demure already did.

Hugo Weaving was good too though he had less to play with and he never once said, "Mr Anderson". I would have added a new character just to get that line in.

The setting, an American town that had seen better days, was topical even though it was set around sixty years ago. The hope the townspeople had for their visiting billionaire must be like that many American's had for the man they (somehow) elected as their President.

If anything the story was the weak point of the play and the ending seemed somewhat unnatural but the ending was not the point, it was the long journey to get there that mattered and that was full of good things.

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