Alice is a physicist working at CERN. Her sister Jenny is the kind of Google-trained, self-proclaimed “expert” who chain smokes but distrusts diet coke and worries that vaccines cause autism. Lucy Kirkwood’s latest play, following the excellent Chimerica, pits them against each other, in a grudge match of reason vs emotion that ranges from the risk of ultrasounds to the potential destruction of the universe at the hands of meddling scientists.
Both characters are deeply flawed, and it’s commendable to see portrayals of people who have suffered personal tragedies being forced to confront their actions rather than be coddled as helpless victims. The dialogue and acting are strong throughout, especially from Olivia Williams (Alice) and Broadchurch star Olivia Colman (Jenny) as the sisters. Their opening scene is a spectacular argument on the merits of facts over parental instincts, and is hilarious and moving to boot.
Colman in particular shines as an unsympathetic and tactless pseudoscience advocate, who nonetheless at times displays more emotional intelligence than anyone else in the play. A special mention should also go to Paul Hilton, who plays Alice’s estranged partner, a brilliant but unhinged physicist listed in the credits simply as “The Boson”. His monologues on the wonder of scientific discovery, fused with the visceral panic of experiencing mental breakdown, are sensational.
It’s quick-witted and thought-provoking, with a phenomenal set that at times resembles an intimate planetarium. It’s a shame, then, that there are too many competing plotlines and themes, which resolve towards the end in an unsatisfactorily forced conclusion. At crucial moments of tension, competing threads detract from the main story, with fresh crises looming before the audience has had time to properly process the last.
This is, at its core, a play about science, and how we talk about science. It’s about the way we all misunderstand risk, distrust experts, and dismiss those we consider too stupid to understand our own reasoning. When the play focuses on this, it’s a work of rare brilliance. The problems arise when it gets sidetracked by other themes: the challenges faced by women in technical fields, loss of agency in old age, children’s desire not to grow up like their parents, sibling rivalry, mental illness, motherhood, guilt. While these are all interesting topics, there just isn’t time to explore them properly.
Come for the acting, stay for debate on scientific communication, and try to forgive the convoluted plot.
Source: cityam.com – Mosquites at the National Theatre review
Alice is a scientist. She lives in Geneva.
As the Large Hadron Collider starts up in 2008, she’s on the brink of the most exciting work of her life – searching for the Higgs Boson. Jenny is her sister. She lives in Luton. She spends a lot of time Googling. When tragedy throws them together, the collision threatens them all with chaos.
How would you cope if your world was turned upside down? There’s the famous phrase that ‘blood is thicker than water’; that family is everything and they’ll always support each other. A notion pushed to its limits in Lucy Kirkwood’s spectacular new play at the NT. When the inconceivable happens within your own inner circle, how do you react and most of all – how do you cope?
Mosquitoes takes a raw and intimate look into the deepest parts of our lives and paints it beautifully for all to see. Oh, and if you like your physics, there’s a healthy dose of that in there too!
It’s not all quite so heavy, as Mosquitoes packs its fair share of comedy; often leaving us in stitches with witty one liners and sassy comebacks. It’s all so reminiscent of real life as therefore is instantly recognisable, which somewhat adds to the humour. The delicate juxtaposition of dark and angst immediately after hilarious comedy is beautifully executed.
Olivia Colman delivers a sensational performance as Lucy. Raw emotion emanating from every action, this allowed an incredibly powerful sensation to wash over the audience from her first moments on stage. Joseph Quinn’s portrayal of troubled teenager and genius Luke is equally as impressive throughout – some of the best scenes coming from fraught and awkward interactions between the pair.
Olivia Williams as Alice creates some of the finest scenes when battling her sister [Colman]. The sisterly bond is well and truly felt and is a testament to the tight knit they’ve formed. It’s all so believable.
Katrina Lindsay’s design is a marvel, managing to achieve maximum effect from a small space makes for some visually stunning scenes. The use of projection at such short range, including projecting onto the audience, is powerful.
Surrounded on all four sides by the audience, the small stage of the NT’s Dorfman Theatre feels noticeably intimate, even before the play starts. So close to the action, you feel almost as if you’re intruding on their lives; a powerless witness to the crashing of relationships right before your eyes.
Raw. Emotional. Poetic. Hilarious. We could continue with the adjectives for days, though the verdict is quite clear: tTis is one piece of theatre you don’t want to miss out on!
Gay Times gives Mosquitoes – 5/5
More information can be found here.
Joining the previously announced Olivia Colman will be Amanda Boxer, Cait Davis, Vanessa Emme, Yoli Fuller, Paul Hilton, Joseph Quinn, Sofia Stuart and Olivia Williams.
Kirkwood’s play focusses on Alice (Williams), a scientist working to find the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron particle collider in Geneva, when a tragedy collides her life with that of her Luton-based sister Jenny (Colman).
Directed by National Theatre artistic director Rufus Norris, Mosquitoes has designs by Katrina Lindsay, lighting by Paule Constable, music by Adam Cork, sound design by Paul Arditti and video design by Finn Ross and Ian William Galloway.
Mosquitoes runs in the Dorfman at the National Theatre from 18 July to 28 September.
More information: HERE
Buy tickets: HERE
The theatre’s artistic director Rufus Norris said that he lured The Night Manager star back to the stage over a coffee.
Olivia, 42, will appear in Mosquitoes, a new play by Lucy Kirkwood, which will have its world premiere in July next year.
Announcing the new work, Rufus said: “It centres on the relationship between two sisters. One is a leading scientist at the opening of the Large Hadron Collider.
“It’s about physics and the search for Higgs boson. There’s an incredibly lively and acerbic relationship between these two sisters and Olivia is playing one of the sisters.”
He added: “I think she’s a really terrific actress.”
He worked with Olivia on the film production of London Road.
“Since then I’ve been trying to woo her back into the theatre,” he said.
“I had a coffee with her not long ago and managed to trick her into stepping back over the line.
“When actors get that kind of success in TV and film, before you know it, five or 10 years have gone by without them being on stage.
“So it’s really important to get them back to keep that side of their craft up.”
The Broadchurch actress previously starred at the National in 2009 in the play England People Very Nice.
Norris will direct the new play.
Previously announced productions at the National Theatre next year also include Imelda Staunton in Follies, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Nathan Lane, The Amazing Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield and Russell Tovey all star in Angels In America.
The theatre recently announced a “national listening project… a verbatim archive of conversations from across the UK” which took place in the days after the EU Referendum in June.
A performance based on the first round of material, created in collaboration with poet Carol Ann Duffy, will be entitled My Country: A Work In Progress.