Play of the Week: Timon of Athens, NT: Olivier, London SE1
Saturday 28 July 2012
A profligate philanthropist goes bust, loses his fair-weather friends and bolts to the opposite extreme, raging at mankind in exile.
In Nicholas Hytner's incisive revival, this tricky Shakespeare/Middleton collaboration becomes an urgent Play for Today, set in a capital of inequalities of wealth and "Occupy London"-style campaigners.
The play has been adapted. Some roles have been gender-swapped to allow in women – including Timon's Steward, whose devotion is beautifully conveyed by Deborah Findlay. Some have been partially rewritten, including Apemantus, played with trenchancy by Hilton McRae.
Meanwhile, Simon Russell Beale's brilliant Timon suggests that the emotional link between the beaming plutocrat in part one and the furious male bag-lady in part two is a wariness about intimacy. That's a mark of the production's excellence. It gives a sharp political context and a piercing look into the personal heart of the matter.
(020 7452 3000; nationaltheatre.org.uk) to 1 Nov
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