Wednesday, 11 November 2015

REVIEW - Waste, National Theatre


SEX sells. That is as true today as it was 100 years or more ago when actor and playwright Harley Granville-Barker wrote his play Waste.
Famously censored when it was first written for being too risque in its content it has been given a stylish, period dressed revival at the National Theatre, directed by Roger Michel.
It concerns one Henry Trebell, an independent MP who is co-opted by the Conservatives to prepare and then push through a controversial Disestablishment bill through the House of Commons.
This is a man who is "in love with the job" rather than any woman and pursues his work with zeal, dedication and commitment. That's not to say he doesn't like to flirt with the opposite sex but he does so sporadically and without much in the way of feeling.
However, during a weekend party at socialite's Lady Julia Farrant's house, he meets Amy O'Connell, trapped in a sexless and unhappy marriage, and embarks on a brief affair with her - and it is this that is his downfall.
For unfortunately she falls pregnant with his child and despite his pleas for her to keep it she goes to a backstreet abortionist - and then dies of complications from the proceedure.
That might be tragedy enough but in the second half the fall out and public scandal from the affair threatens to destroy Trebell's political career and all the hard work he has done on the bill.
His fellow MPs close ranks to seal his fate and unwittingly bring about a tragic ending.
It is a stylish and absorbing production, with minimal furniture on the National's expansive Lyttelton stage, and with a strong cast led by Charles Edwards as Trebell and Olivia Williams as Amy.
They are ably supported by Sylvestra Le Touzel as Frances Trebell, Lucy Robinson as Lady Julia and William Chubb as Farrant.
And although the basic story is essentially nothing new, it provides a fascinating look at the political wranglings that go on behind closed doors in Westminster and shows clearly how things have not changed - we all still seem to be hungry for any politician or celebrity who is caught in flagrante.
But the waste also refers to the personal tragedy - not just of Trebell who faces political ruin not to mention losing both his baby and his pet project, but of Amy too - the waste of a life, a career and a love affair.

Waste is on at the National Theatre until March 19. Tickets from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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