“I’m stupefied by the suffering I’ve seen,” cries Patrick Stewart as William Shakespeare, returning to one of his favourite roles in a six-week run at the Young Vic with a sold-out 480-seat capacity.
Angus Jackson’s fine revival of Edward Bond’s severe 1973 play was seen at Chichester in the Minerva two years ago. Robert Innes Hopkins’ design is more compressed here, but the six “scenes of money and death” are sharply etched and vividly dramatic.
Stewart plays the Bard like an existential sage, frozen in his own inertia, unable to prevent the land enclosures in and around Stratford-upon-Avon, helpless to save a beggar girl traveller (Michelle Tate), disgusted by memories of the bear-baiting in London.
Like its companion piece about John Clare, The Fool (1975), Bingo offers a trenchant portrait of an artist in his domestic and political setting – both plays are written in a tangy East Anglian dialect.
Stewart’s dazed playwright is visited by friend and rival Ben Jonson – played as a wonderfully chaotic drunk by Richard McCabe (“What was The Winter’s Tale about?”) – in the local tavern.
John McEnery as a lecherous old gardener, Alex Price as his zealot of a son and Matthew Marsh as the landowner William Combe cut contrasting figures in this autumnal-turning-wintry landscape.
Stewart is seen rolling in the snow, moving like a ghost before his time to the deathbed in New Place, where he’s haunted by the screeching of an unseen wife and the rapacious attention of a pinched and bloodless Catherine Cusack as his daughter Judith. Truly chilling, truly poetic.
Young Vic, London, February 16-March 31
- Edward Bond
- Angus Jackson
- Young Vic, Chichester Festival Theatre
- Cast includes
- Patrick Stewart, Richard McCabe, John McEnery, Matthew Marsh, Catherine Cusack, Ellie Haddington, Michelle Tate, Alex Price
- Running time
- 2hrs 25mins