Play: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes
Playwright: Tony Kushner
Director: Marianne Elliott
Summary: The play follows a group of people who are struggling to understand the world around them in mid 80s America, and as the third-millennium approaches, it is realised that everything will change.
N.B. I watched Angels in America in two parts via a National Theatre Live broadcast. I also have read Angels in America prior (wait a minute, did you just make a pun Melissa? – YOU BET I DID!) to seeing a live performance of it.
What I liked…
Angels in America is a modern epic, a web of interconnecting social, political, racial, spiritual issues. It is a must see for anyone who loves theatre and/or literature. In all honesty, I was not that impressed when I first heard of the cast. However, after witnessing the plays, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, a week apart, I could tell that the actors were very much invested in their roles.
The main characters, Roy Cohn, Prior Walter, Louis Ironson, Harper Pitt, and Joe Pitt, are the epicentres of the plays. Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn (the only character based on a real person) was incredibly vibrant, disturbing, violent, and hilarious; he delivered his lines with authenticity, even in moments of silence. His performances were my favourite.
James McArdle was also incredibly committed to his troubled character, Louis, delivering some intense monologues that were both baffling and enlightening. I think that sums up Louis Ironson, to be honest. McArdle’s relentless emotional energy was not forced at all. In a similar light, Denise Gough particularly shone in her monologues; her character, Harper, seemed to take up the whole stage. Harper’s thoughts and feelings seemed organically produced by Gough, which made Harper seem tangible to the audience.
What I disliked…
Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Prior Walter did not sit right with me. His performance felt hollow and fabricated, which was disappointing considering his character’s major role in the events of Kushner’s play. Vocally, Garfield seemed to settle into a stereotype, which became grating after a while.
Russell Tovey’s performance was possibly the worst out of the main cast. His lack of vocal control was displeasing to the point that I winced at his shouting. In terms of his physical performance, he did not seem grounded in his character, which was noticeable in the moments of high energy.
The staging and set of Angels in America was just all right. The set changes seemed too long. I found some of the camera angles random, although it did allow me to see some of the characters who were still deliberately on stage, but I am not sure if the London theatre audience could see this or not.
Why did I see it?
Having been confused by the text, seeing it was a must.
Would I see another National Theatre production?
Yes, Angels in America was quite a feat and was treated very well by NT.
This cast of Angels in America was not my absolute favourite, but I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing Kushner’s epic in the flesh (relatively). It is a play that I will continue to see again and again.
– Melissa Jennings