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A reviews round-up for Lawrence After Arabia at Hampstead Theatre.

Commissioned to mark the centenary of the start of the Arab revolt, Lawrence After Arabia finds T.E Lawrence trapped in his love/hate relationship with the limelight, tormented by ghosts and haunted by broken promises.

Howard Brenton’s new play has now opened at Hampstead Theatre with critics widely describing solid performances from the cast but lacking in momentum.

Here’s a round-up of reviews from The Guardian, Time Out, The Independent, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard and The Stage.

Lawrence After Arabia runs until 24 June 2016 at the Hampstead Theatre.

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REVIEWS ROUND-UP

STAR RATING The Daily Telegraph

“Laskey, as Lawrence, exudes youthful gung-ho, though not quite the charisma you might have desired. Geraldine James brings intense emotion as Mrs Shaw, while Jeff Rawle, rubicund and bearded, is an aphorism-spouting Shaw, happiest when distracted from writing by damson jelly and beekeeping.”

“The skill of the play is that it doesn’t make you think; it lets you think.”

Tim Auld, Daily Telegraph

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STAR RATING The Independent

“Lucid direction by John Dove, but this play is too bitty and lacks momentum. But it does achieves lift-off in the climactic encounter between the homosexual Lawrence and the sexually neglected Mrs Shaw (the excellent Geraldine James).”

Paul Taylor, The Independent

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STAR RATING Time Out

“Forget the breathtaking vistas of David Lean’s epic film. This is Lawrence of Arabia reduced and confined to a drawing room. Howard Brenton is one the great British playwrights, but this is not one of his great plays.”

“although it touches on socialism, sexuality, regret and redress, the play never digs in.”

Tim Bano, Time Out

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STAR RATING The Guardian

“Jack Laskey plays Lawrence extremely well as a tortured figure, conscious of his complicity in British betrayal and masochistically seeking punishment, without having much chance to explain why he was such a welcome house guest. Geraldine James clearly establishes Charlotte’s compassion, Jeff Rawle is totally convincing as her play-preoccupied husband and William Chubb briskly conveys the poker-backed pragmatism of Field Marshal Allenby.”

“John Dove’s production is also a model of clarity and achieves the transitions from the village of Ayot St Lawrence to Arabia with great ease. But while I enjoyed Brenton’s attempt to unravel the mystery of TE Lawrence, I can’t say I was shocked into startling new awareness.”

Michael Billington, The Guardian

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STAR RATING Evening Standard

“This is a play of bits and pieces, lacking a central focus and dramatic impetus. There’s Bernard Shaw (Jeff Rawle) dictating Saint Joan to his secretary, Lawrence (Jack Laskey, thin and harried) recounting his recent incognito enlisting in the RAF, Lawrence having some cumbersome flashbacks to his time in the desert. Awkwardly, the main thrust of each scene is always elsewhere, which ultimately gets us nowhere in John Dove’s production. “

“Brenton has certainly done his research, but there’s an uncomfortable sense of too many biographical details being dutifully shoehorned in whether they help the play or not. There’s also a lot of chewing over of abstruse details and a climactic showdown between Lawrence and Charlotte Shaw (Geraldine James, nicely done) offers scant reward.”

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

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STAR RATING The Stage

“Soldier, writer, freedom fighter, spy, TE Lawrence was a fascinating man, complex and contradictory, an icon in his own lifetime, yet also elusive and something of an oddity. Howard Brenton’s attempt to explore the relationship between man and myth is rich with potential – Brenton’s an expert at this kind of thing – but the play never pulls all its threads together. It’s all tell and very little show. It feels, at times, like a collection of (very thorough) research notes.”

“Despite its fascinating subject, Howard Brenton’s new play is lacking in dramatic momentum.”

Natasha Tripney, The Stage

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