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.
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.
For the first time since its renaming and refurbishment, one of Noël Coward’s most well known plays will be performed at the Noël Coward Theatre. Howard Davies is to direct Lindsay Duncan in Coward’s Hay Fever, reuniting the director and actor who together received seven major international theatre awards for their 2001 collaboration on Coward’s Private Lives. Duncan is joined by Jeremy Northam, Kevin McNally and Olivia Colman in Coward’s sublime comedy of bad manners.
Running at the Noël Coward Theatre from 10 February – 2 June 2012, Hay Fever has designs by Bunny Christie, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Mike Walker. Press preview performances are Thursday 23 February at 7pm, Friday 24 February and Saturday 25 February at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, with reviews embargoed until Monday 27 February 2012. Hay Fever is produced in the West End by Richard Willis, Matthew Byam Shaw for Playful Productions and Sonia Friedman Productions. Further casting will be announced shortly.
Judith Bliss, once glittering star of the London stage, now in early retirement, is still enjoying life with more than a little high drama and the occasional big scene. To spice her weekend up, Judith invites a young suitor to join her in the country. However, her novelist husband, David, and her two eccentric children, Simon and Sorel, have had the same idea for themselves and any hope for private flirtation disappears as the family’s guests begin to arrive. Misjudged meetings, secret seductions and scandalous revelations all run riot at the most outrageous of all house parties.
In 1920 Noël Coward made his stage debut at what was then known as the New Theatre in his own first play, I’ll Leave It To You. In 1973 the theatre was renamed the Albery and subsequently, in 2001, Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman played Amanda and Elyot in Coward’s Private Lives to great critical acclaim. In June 2006 the theatre was renamed once again as the Noël Coward Theatre when the building underwent major refurbishment including the naming of the two principal dressing rooms as Noël and Gertie, the latter being Coward’s favourite leading lady, Gertrude Lawrence.
Cameron Mackintosh said: “I’m delighted to be able to have our first Coward play at the theatre since it was renamed after The Master. Truly one of Noël’s masterpieces, Hay Fever promises to be as great an evening at this theatre as Howard Davies’ Private Lives a few years ago, also starring the delicious Lindsay Duncan. I am also delighted to welcome to the salon of the Prince of Wales Theatre, Noël’s beloved grand piano on which he composed so many of his wonderful songs. His talent to amuse lives on forever.”
Playwright, composer, director and actor Noël Coward wrote Hay Fever in 1924 and it was first produced a year later at the Ambassadors Theatre. Coward wrote over 50 plays during his career including Private Lives, Design for Living, Present Laughter, Blithe Spirit and Hay Fever. His many compositions include Mad Dogs and Englishmen, A Room with a View and Mrs Worthington, and his film credits include Brief Encounter, The Vortex and The Italian Job. Coward was knighted in 1970.
Double Olivier award-winner Lindsay Duncan (Judith Bliss) has worked extensively for The National Theatre where her credits include Plenty, The Homecoming and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and for the Royal Shakespeare Company in productions including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. In the West End she has been seen in The Cryptogram, That Face and Noel Coward’s Private Lives. For the Royal Court her credits include the original production of Top Girls as well as Ashes to Ashes and Mouth to Mouth. For The Almeida Theatre her credits include Celebration and The Room. On television she has recently appeared as Alex Cairns in Black Mirror – The National Anthem and The Duchess of York in Rupert Goold’s Richard II. Her other television credits also include White Heat, Dr Who, the title role in Margaret, as well as Lost in Austen, Longford, Rome, Shooting the Past and Perfect Strangers, The Rector’s Wife, A Year in Provence, GBH and Traffik. Her film credits include Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Starter For Ten, Mansfield Park, An Ideal Husband and Prick Up Your Ears.
Olivier award-wining Jeremy Northam (Richard Greatham) was most recently on stage at the Donmar Warehouse in Old Times. His other theatre credits include Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Country Wife for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Certain Young Men for The Almeida Theatre and The Voysey Inheritance at The National Theatre. He has most recently been seen on television in Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39 and as Thomas Moore in The Tudors. His other television credits include White Heat and Journey’s End. Northam’s film credits include Creation, Dean Spanley, A Cock and Bull Story, Gosford Park (in which he played Ivor Novello), The Winslow Boy, An Ideal Husband, Happy Texas, Possession, Emma, The Net and Carrington.
Kevin McNally’s (David Bliss) most recent stage credits were as Claudius in Hamlet and Lebedev in Ivanov, both for the Donmar Warehouse at Wyndham’s Theatre. Previously his extensive theatre credits include Boeing Boeing, The Lady in the Van, Naked, Dead Funny and The Iceman Cometh. On television he can soon be seen in ITV1’s Downton Abbey. His other television credits include New Tricks, Life On Mars, Margaret, Bloodlines, Dunkirk, Spooks, Shackleton, Rab C Nesbitt, Enigma and Diana. McNally’s many film credits include the role of Joshamee Gibbs, Captain Jack Sparrow’s first mate in The Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Raven (to be released next Spring), Valkyrie, De-Lovely, The Phantom of the Opera, Johnny English, Sliding Doors, Irish Jam and Entrapment.
Olivia Colman’s (Myra Arundel) theatre credits include England People Very Nice for The National Theatre, The Three Some for the Lyric Hammersmith and A Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Lyric Theatre. Her upcoming film credits include The Iron Lady directed by Phylidda Lloyd and Hyde Park on Hudson. Her other film credits include Tyrannosaur, Dog Altogether, Grow Your Own, I Could Never Be Your Woman and Hot Fuzz. On television she is best known for playing Sophie Chapman in the Peep Show series and Harriet Schulenburg in the Green Wing series. Her other television credits include The Baader Meinhof Gang series, Exile, Doctor Who, Beautiful People, Consuming Passion, That Mitchell and Webb Look, Hancock and Joan, Love Soup, Much Ado About Nothing, Ny-Lon and The Office.
Multi award-winning Howard Davies is an Associate Director of The National Theatre where his many productions include The Cherry Orchard, The White Guard, Burnt by the Sun, The Taking Cure, Flight, Present Laughter and Mourning Becomes Electra. For The Almeida Theatre, where he was also Associate Director, his productions include Period of Adjustment, The Play About the Baby, The Iceman Cometh and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? At the Royal Shakespeare Company he produced 26 new plays in 4 years at The Warehouse Theatre which he established and ran. His other RSC credits include The General from America, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Jail Diary of Albie Sachs. In the West End Davies’ directing credits include All My Sons, The Breath of Life and Noel Coward’s Private Lives. His many Broadway transfers include A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Iceman Cometh, My Fair Lady, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
Dates: 10 February – 2 June 2012
Press performances: 23 February at 7pm, 24 February at 7.30pm, 25 February at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Reviews embargoed until 27 February
Address: Noël Coward Theatre
St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4AU
Performances: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm
First Wednesday matinee 29 February
Box Office: 0844 482 5140