12 April 2022
THE CORN IS GREEN (National Theatre, Lyttelton) Review

The overall premise here isn’t complicated:  an outsider comes to a mining village in Wales to start a school.  Needless to say, the endeavour is problematic in more ways than one.  The text is interesting, and the story has a couple of good twists, the singing is beautiful.  It is still early in the run (they had to cancel several first performances due to illness), and the pacing feels off.  There are gaps, bits that are too slow, some dialog that’s just begging to be cut.  I hope they tighten it up into 2.5h of brisk storytelling.

I am a big fan of Nicola Walker on stage (she was spectacular in The Cane a while back), and she is as good as ever in this production.  It’s largely an ensemble piece, but she is the one who kept me invested in the story (and I do mean Walker’s acting, not just her character). The rest of the characters feel a bit cartooney, and I can’t tell if that was intentional or not.

Without giving away too much about the setup, the play is “narrated”, meaning you get a bit of a stage direction voiceover.  It wasn’t too bad in the second act, but by the middle of the first act, I was ready to wring the narrator’s neck.

The ending is…  I felt everything was packaged up a little too neatly, so that the audience could walk away feeling uplifted.  Maybe that’s what we need these days…  My companion (who I hope will leave a comment in her own words) picked up on some phrasing with which she took umbrage.  I chucked it up to “suitable for attitudes of the 19th century”, but it would be interesting to see what others think.

Cheapskate enjoyment value: £7.


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