10 December 2021
FORCE MAJEURE (Donmar Warehouse) Review
What a delightful production! It’s the last show I’m seeing this year (and the next one is not till mid-January), so very excited to wrap up on such a high note.
The play is Tim Price’s adaptaion of “Force Majeure”, the 2014 Swedish movie about a husband and wife (Thomas and Ebba) and their two kids taking a skiing holiday in the French Alps. Thomas does something that Ebba finds in poor taste, and the marriage takes a nose dive from there with a bit of collateral to boot. To say any more would be unfair to those who don’t know the plot.
The acting is fantastic. Rory Kinnear and Lyndsey Marshal have real chemistry and drive the story forward in a way that balances comedy and drama quite nicely. Kinnear is hapless, Marshal is neglected, and, when they quarrel in front of friends and strangers, it almost feels like you’re sat at the same table as them. The rest of the cast is also terrific without exception, with Sule Rimi’s midnight freakout being both funny and heartwarming.
If I was being picky, there were two small things that made me wrinkle my nose. Firstly, Raffaello Degruttola’s janitor was brilliant, but, by his 5th appearance, he stopped being comic relief and became a distraction. People were cheering any time he came on stage, which interfered with being immersed in the play. Secondly, after Marshal gets helped down the mountain toward the end of the play, her facial expressions (that, presumably, are meant to express Ebba’s take on the situation) provoked a great deal of laughter from the audience. I thought that was completely wrong. It negated the sweetness of the moment and made it somehow fake. Both of these sit with Michael Longhurst, whose direction was otherwise spot-on. The way he fills the time required to switch scenes is funny and genius.
Jon Bausor’s set deserves a special mention. I don’t want to say too much so not to ruin it for those seeing the show later in the run, but it is flipping brilliant. I really wanted to come up and touch it during the intermission, but figured the ushers would take a grim view of it, so didn’t.
The show certainly hit a sweet spot: straight-forward but engaging plot, good acting, entertaining production. Definitely worth seeing.
Cheapskate enjoyment value: £7.
Bonus: There were 2 kids sat nearby (presumably next to their parents, though I must say, this is a very odd choice of a play to take your 10-12 year old children to). There is one scene where Thomas screams obscenities whilst standing at the top of the mountain. The kids were just about weeing themselves laughing. It certainly looked like they just hear more cursing in 10 seconds than they heard in all their lives 🙂
Covid Note: With masks now mandatory, about 3/4 of the audience did have them on, which is much better than what I’d seen at other theatres. But the attitude of the ushers to those not wearing masks is the same lack of caring seen everywhere. There were quite a few people near me that had their masks hanging on their ears or chins or elbows, but not on faces. When I asked the nearby usher to ask those people to put on their masks, I was told that it’s likely they weren’t wearing them because they must be exempt. Nevermind how few people are actually exempt (and, therefore, how statistically unlikely it would be for all of these people to be just that), but the exempt people don’t have masks hanging on their chins and off one ear. Seriously…
**UPDATED:** The official critics’ reviews are out, and it’s low scores across the board. Having skimmed through a couple, I think that’s because people keep comparing it to the film, which was a good proper drama. Well, don’t. Think of it as almost a farcical comedy with the same plot, kind of like “Legally Blonde”. It’s cheesy in places, but it’s funny, mostly well-staged, and you’ll be leaving the theatre with a smile as long as you don’t expect to be a like-for-like of its predecessor.