Wednesday, 6 May 2015

REVIEW: Light Shining, National Theatre


CARYL Churchill's epic play, Light Shining In Buckinghamshire about political and social upheaval in the 1640s could not have been staged at a more relevant time.
As we enter the final days of this year's General Election campaign where the yawning gap between the rich and the poor has been one of the main issues, this play, now on at the National's Lyttelton stage shows that these concerns are not new.
It is a play about protest, campaigns, hope for the future and the fact that there is still a feeling of "them and us".
It features the Levellers, Ranters, Agitators and common people who tried and almost succeeded in changing the country during a period of political upheaval.
Es Devlin's set is just stunning. It is essentially a huge table laden with food around which the noblemen, the elite of society, sit and over which hangs a huge gold mirrored ceiling.
As these wealthy men of power tuck in the commoners begin to come on to the stage.
There follows a series of vignettes in which we follow the fortunes of the various groups who try to bring about political change to the country.
The longest of these is an imagining of the Putney debates in which questions were explored as to how much power should be given to the people.
Throughout the piece though we get a sense of frustration and despair that nothing changes. These noblemen continue to sit around the table reminding us that power is still held by a few, the rich are still rich, there are still people living in extreme poverty and despite elections and protests some feel they are ignored and forgotten by the political elite and feel their voices aren't heard.
The cast is excellent and as it is a story about the masses there is no one star - rather a collection of fine performances including Ashley McGuire as the poverty-stricken woman who is forced to give up her baby against her will, Nicholas Gleaves as the army's recruiter Star, Trystan Gravelle as the ultimately disillusioned Briggs and Steffan Rhodri as Sexby who makes impassioned speeches during the Putney debates.

Light Shining In Buckinghamshire is on at the National Theatre until Monday, June 22. Tickets from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.  

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