The Crown

The Crown
Alex as the Duke of Windsor

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday and Other Reviews For the Alchemist

In the Evening Standard Nicholas de Jongh turns to the contemporary and political content of the play. He has some comments on Alex's performance:

"What's more The Alchemist's hopeful deceivers - Simon Russell Beale's endearing butler-turned-housekeeper, who goes by the name of Face and convincingly puts on three different ones, Alex Jennings's deliciously amusing freelance pimp, Subtle, with his little repertoire of false identities, and Lesley Manville's Dol Common, who comes packed with sexual promise and promises - are all involved in the defunct art of alchemy."


"An artful brand of deception and role-play rises initially in a comic spiral of complexity. The modern-dress performances brim with vitality. Jennings's estuary-accented wide boy Subtle sets the deceptions going in a comedy classic performance. Hilariously got up as an American hippie, with headscarf, beads and a voice of glazed, camp affectation, or white-gowned and tranquil, he oozes a grave, misleading sincerity."

Full review: Evening Standard

Kate Bassett in the Independent isn't that keen:

"This production will, I suspect, get funnier. At the final preview which I attended, Ian Richardson's Sir Epicure Mammon, luxuriating in wanton fantasies, kept falling disappointingly flat and Jennings's gamut of accents (from American to Scots) isn't all that hilarious. Nonetheless, Tim McMullan is splendidly silly as a swishing mock-Spaniard and Russell Beale is, as always, outstanding, with dry comic timing and moments of terrific flamboyance - staggering like Frankenstein's Igor out of an exploding laboratory. He also imbues Face with disturbing psychological depths, almost Iago-like festering jealousy and unloved misery."

Full review: Independent

Christopher Hart, in the sunday Times, is impressed though:

"The two leads — Alex Jennings as Subtle and Simon Russell Beale as Face — are excellent, but so are their satellites, not one of them ever threatened with eclipse. And how hard they all work, not only delivering complex verse at full pelt, but managing a dazzling array of daft accents and silly costumes. Sometimes the accents obscure the verse, but it seems a fair exchange. Jennings is one moment a camp hippie guru, then a tweed-suited Scotsman with a ludicrously strangulated accent."

Full review: The Times

The London Theatre Guide, like most reviews comments on the way Alex and Simon Russell Beale work together:

"It is the colour and character of this pair in particular that give Jonson’s comedy the flair that it demands, though all members of the large cast contribute to the sense of craziness in Hytner’s fast-paced production."

Full review: London Theatre Guide

Susannah Clapp in the Observer has only praise for both actors:

"There is Subtle, the chancer who will impersonate (if it's possible to impersonate a fiction) a wizard who can convert the base into the precious, and make people's fortunes: Alex Jennings, lolling in his dressing-gown, packs dandified scorn and low-life shrewdness into one lift of an eyebrow."

"But it is of course the double-act at the centre which makes or breaks the play. It's unlikely that this one will be bettered for the next two decades. The range is tremendous. Jennings turns himself in seconds from a cross-legged, beaded Californian hippie to a furrowed squint-eyed dominie. Russell Beale plums it out as a moustachioed blazer, and scuttles around limping like a broken tripod. Forget Marks & Spencer, Ant and Dec, Posh and Becks: it's Russell Beale and Jennings - working together for the first time - who are the essential new combo."

Full review: Observer

On its website the National Theatre has added a reviews page:
National Theatre

And some pictures of the production:
National Theatre

and one more for The Queen:

Cosmo Landesman in the Sunday Times:
"Alex Jennings looks nothing like Prince Charles, but conveys the man and the mummy’s boy perfectly."

Full review: The Times

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