Mike Bartlett & Tinuke Craig’s new adaptation of Maxim Gorky play ‘Vassa’ has opened to mixed reviews at Almeida Theatre in North London.

Despite reports of  ‘Vassa’ falling flat, the piece ‘is very funny‘ (Time Out), and Siobhán Redmond who “gives a highly impressive performance as Gorky’s domineering matriarch” (Guardian) deserves credit for stepping in as lead to replace Samantha Bond at such short notice.

Gorky’s Vassa centres on a formidable matriarch and lengths she will go to ensure the survival of the family business.

Vassa runs until until Saturday 23 November 2019 at Almeida Theatre, London

Read a round-up of reviews below.

Paul Taylor, The Independent

★★★★

“A vivid, horribly vital production. Siobhan Redmond shines in this disgracefully funny adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s 1910 play.”

“Fly Davis’s design pointedly references the sets used in the Roman farces of Plautus and others. The multiple exits and entrances here are blackly funny and are executed with great comic timing by the crack cast. The unholy amusement comes from the contrast between the usual breakneck farce and the fretful, self-absorbed behaviour of this lot. ”

“As with David Hare’s recent adaptation of Ibsen’s renamed Peter Gynt at the National, I sometimes wonder if Bartlett’s sheer cleverness is too on top of the game, to the point of alienating some punters. There’s a sense that the show is glorying in the amorality, in the end, rather than lethally castigating it. But the whole evening yammers with talent.”

Alice Saville, Time Out

★★★

“Playing the title role (after Samantha Bond withdrew following injury), Siobhan Redmond squeezes her errant daughter-in-law until her eyes pop”

“Bartlett’s adaptation is very, very funny, and its nihilist jokes are underscored by Craig’s (Tinuke Craig) uproarious staging.”

“When ‘Vassa’ starts operating less like a farce and more like a political tragedy, its impact falters.”

“Her transformation into a guilt-ridden tragic figure comes too late, and feels hollow; she’s less of a Medea, more a psychopathic middle manager.”

“The 1983 soviet film ‘Vassa’ ends in the 1913 revolution; it feels like there’s something similarly biting, similarly political missing from this play’s weak ending.”

Dominic Maxwell, The Times

“Like a tone-deaf pre-Soviet Succession.”

“Redmond is a terrific actress, but struggles to suggest any inner life for a woman who ends the show as she begins it: ruthless, ingenious, scornful.”

“The insistent overplaying of the comedy dries up the laughs from the start.”

“The acting varies from the flat to the gurning, with only Danny Kirrane, as the elder son, Semyon, consistently nailing the sort of casual esprit required.”

Sarah Hemming, ft.com
★★

“it somehow falls flat: everyone is so grotesque and larger-than-life right from the beginning that it grows wearisome.”

“There are some wonderfully pungent performances: Siobhán Redmond (who stepped in at late notice following an injury to Samantha Bond) is viper-like as Vassa…But for all this, the piece never quite gels.”

Michael Billington, Guardian
★★★

“Siobhan Redmond is impressive as a tyrannical mother trying to rescue her debt-ridden family in Tinuke Craig’s strangely rootless production”

“Bartlett and Craig, however, strip it of any historical context to give us a blackly comic account of the destructive nature of the profit-driven family.”

Matt Wolf, theartsdesk.com
★★

“delayed opening doesn’t land.”

“Gorky play suffers an identity crisis in uneasily-pitched revival”

“Tinuke Craig…has trouble locating the elusive gallows humour necessary to sustain this pitch-black portrait of a moneyed family wallowing in its own often-gleeful mendacity”

Charlie Wilks, broadwayworld.com
★★★

“Bartlett keeps it traditional…His version is a black comedy, a jovial piece filled with many zingy one-liners and exciting punchiness.”

“There’s a lot that’s been crammed into the two hours, so you need to pay attention to every tiny detail”

“The cast are all capable…Their chemistry helps the play get through its scrappy bits”

“Danny Kirrane is hilarious as the over-the-top caricature Semyon”

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
★★

“A rare misfire from north London’s creative powerhouse”

Metro

★★★★
“Tinuke Craig’s sharp, stylish production is acted with savage panache”