Reviews are in for Mike Bartlett’s new play Scandaltown, which has opened at the Lyric Hammersmith in London.
Mike Bartlett’s (The 47th) irreverent new comedy is directed by Lyric Hammersmith Artistic Director Rachel O’Riordan, and is billed as a Restoration comedy for the 21st Century.
The talented cast is headlined by Rachael Stirling, with Richard Goulding, Thomas Josling, Ami Okumura Jones, Annette McLaughlin, Aysha Kala, Cecilia Appiah, Chukwuma Omambala, Emma Cunniffe, Henry Everett, Luke Hornsby and Matthew Broome.
Scandaltown runs until 14 May 2022.
Read reviews for Scandaltown from The Guardian, Time Out, The Telegraph, Evening Standard, i News and more, below.
"Smut and silliness in modern Restoration comedy"
"Mike Bartlett’s rambunctious capers with types including Lady Susan Climber and Matt Eton MP are great fun if not exactly stinging satire"
"However, the pace and wit sag after the interval, the final revelations are not dynamic enough and the mystery around an offensive outfit worn by Lady Climber has no payoff. In its story it contains shades of Henry Fielding’s Bildungsroman, Tom Jones, which was recently adapted into the musical What’s New Pussycat? but that show was far more effective in its comic revelations, twists and pacing.
Still, there is fun and fine acting along the way and as Bartlett instructs, it is all joyfully silly stuff."
"Mike Bartlett’s faux-Restoration comedy is good fun but a bit weak as satire"
"It takes guts to try and satirise an era of culture war-infected British politics that pretty effectively sends up itself. It takes even more guts to do it in the style of a Restoration comedy, full of crossdressing, courtly language and creaking corsets. So Mike Bartlett's new play ‘Scandaltown’ gets some serious points for trying, even if it ultimately falls short of sharp-toothed hilarity and lands somewhere a bit more mealy-mouthed."
"Mike Bartlett’s social pastiche is showy but insubstantial"
"This contemporary Restoration comedy is one of Bartlett’s sketchier works"
"It’s laugh-out-loud funny at times but its discussions of freedom, liberty and responsibility – not to mention some last-minute gags about partygate - are schematic. It feels like Bartlett - whose blank verse drama The 47th, about a Trump run in 2024, opened at the Old Vic last week - wrote it to prove he could once again do something that no one else is doing."
"Mike Bartlett's modern-day Restoration comedy, feels like champagne gone flat"
"It's a good premise: a boisterous satire on the lazy thinking behind the culture wars. But the panto-ish result feels late to the party"
"The trouble is, the play seems as little interested in analysis as its characters. It all feels decidedly tired, like drinking champagne from a bottle that’s been open two days too long. The odd intriguing one liner, such as “I’m sick of feeling guilty”, hints at a thesis that is never developed. Instead, Bartlett largely settles for throwaway gags so beloved of panto. An awful lot of energy is devoted to groan-inducing euphemisms – a postman makes one very rubbish joke about packages and slots."
"Anti-woke jokes fall flat in modern Restoration comedy"
"Panto season seems to have arrived earlier than usual. Mike Bartlett’s new play is billed as a modern take on Restoration comedy, but the writing is so slack it makes the average end-of-the-pier show look like a Tom Stoppard history of calculus."
"A biting satire? You can find sharper discourse on Twitter"
"In current times, Mike Bartlett’s Restoration-style political romp ought to go off like a rocket, but the characters aren’t nearly big or vivid enough to make it sparkle"
"The only time O’Riordan’s staging, on a toy-theatre set by the collective Good Teeth, ever feels properly energised in when [Rachael] Stirling appears, lounging and purring in a gold lamé pantsuit or gliding, sleek as a shark, in a satin negligee (the eccentric costumes, part glitz, part charity shop upcycle, are by Kinnetia Isidore). But mostly, this is a toothless disappointment."
"None of its blows land strongly"
"Stirling best understands how to handle the material, pitching her performance at the right heightened level, arch and acid in equal measure with flashes of humanity, and Goulding’s MP gets to go on an emotional journey of his own, but the playing elsewhere is variable and the pacing of Rachel O’Riordan’s production regularly saps the snap out of the lines. Too often, where it needs to be tight, it’s baggy."
"Restoration comedy romps into the 21st century in Scandaltown"
"Leading the fray is Stirling, who is a joy as Lady Climber. First encountered reclining in a black basque and gold spray-on trousers (Kinnetia Isidore’s costumes are a treat), she brings pinpoint comic timing and even manages to evoke a little sympathy for this imperious, shark-eyed operator. Her pauses, double-takes and facial expressions, when the morning after reveals the true horror of what has occurred, are painfully precise and very funny. If the whole show were as sharp as she is, it would be an absolute blast"