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Britannicus review at Wiltons Music Hall London

Racine’s account of the struggle for love and power between the Emperor Nero and his half-brother, Britannicus, is presented here in an engaging new translation by Timberlake Wertenbaker.

Irina Brown’s modern dress production paints Nero as a petulant playboy, mother fixated and fraying at the edges, a man determined to have things his own way no matter the cost – a monster in the making.

Though it takes a while to find its feet, this is a warm-blooded and gripping account of a play that might easily have been stiff and chilly. These characters are consumed by their quest for power, blinded by it. Sian Thomas is an electric Agrippina, her hair coiffed like Margaret Thatcher, her eyes steely and calculating. Matthew Needham plays Nero with an adolescent urgency. It’s a broad performance but it suits the scale of the role. Hara Yannis is delicate and expressive as Junia, the woman torn between the two brothers. But not every performance is so successful – there is some hesitancy in delivering lines, an occasional fumbling of the dialogue, and certain exchanges get swallowed up by the acoustics of the building.

Designer Chloe Lamford uses the space creatively. The audience is seated on the stage so they are looking down on the performers and the music hall interior becomes the plastic-draped palatial backdrop against which the tragic events of the play unfold.

Production Information

Wilton’s Music Hall, London, October 13-November 19

Authors
Jean Racine, adapted by Timberlake Wertenbaker
Director
Irina Brown
Producers
Wilton’s Music Hall, Natural Perspective
Cast includes
Sian Thomas, Matthew Needham, Hara Yannas, Jude Akuwudike, Zo? Aldrich, Christopher Colquhoun, Alexander Vlahos
Running time
1hr 40mins
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