4 September 2020
BEAT THE DEVIL (Bridge Theatre) Review

After the famed playwright David Hare caught and recovered from Covid, he wrote a play about his experience with it ranging from the symptoms to the NHS.

The topic wasn’t of great interest to be honest, and I wasn’t thrilled about taking the tube and sitting in the auditorium with strangers, social distancing measures notwithstanding, but I wanted to see the show for two reasons:  firstly, it’s been almost 6 months since I’ve seen a live show, and, secondly, I was hoping to see something different from Ralf Fiennes given this wasn’t a classic like Anthony & Cleopatra or The Master Builder.

As a rule, I don’t look at reviews before seeing a show, but I did sneak a peek at some on this case.  I honestly can’t remember which one said it (if you do, let me know so I can update it here), but one of them pointed out that this was a play that needed to be written but no one needed to see.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  It’s disjointed, wobbly, muddled, and generally unnecessary.  There is a lot of poking at and blaming of the government, the NHS, the media, etc.  Hare is not wrong, but there is also nothing new there.  Everyone in the audience was sort of nodding in agreement, but none of it was sharp satire or any kind of revelation.

A pleasant surprise for me was Fiennes.  I’ve seen him on stage in three different plays, and every time it felt like “Fiennes being so-and-so”, meaning he was exactly the same in every play.  Here he was drastically different and very enjoyable.  Sadly, I wonder if this liveliness came from playing real people (Hare, Johnson), so, in order to be believable, there had to be some degree of mimicking them rather than “being Fiennes”.

It was good to be at the theatre again, but, in retrospect, I could’ve just as easily given it a miss.

Cheapskate enjoyment value: £2 just to see Fiennes be something different.

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