12 June 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
Reality and truth
Have always gotten so much pleasure out of going to see the National Theatre Live screenings at the cinema. There is a real sense of authenticity in the auditorium despite seeing it much more accessibly. They are also a great opportunity to see a lot of familiar plays, often favourites, with enormously talented casts, and they are an equally great opportunity to discover plays completely unfamiliar to one beforehand.
That was the case with both parts of 'Angels in America', the first part being 'Millenium Approaches' and the second 'Perestroika'. Just doing one part rather than both is a mammoth task by itself. Doing both parts, and with the same cast for continuity, is even more of a Herculean undertaking. Was not familiar with either 'Angels in America' part before seeing the screenings and am so glad about seeing them. Both parts are must sees as are the productions of both, an enormous amount had to be taken on and both did so brilliantly.
'Millenium Approaches' is more talky but is also slightly tighter and more taut somewhat, which some may prefer. Others though will prefer the more expansive and more imaginative approach of 'Perestroika'. Again, when it comes to quality of performances and stage direction though they are equal for the same reasons pretty much. Really appreciated that both parts make a difficult and sensitive subject accessible to anybody who wasn't born during the period depicted, or like me just missed it, and also make it remarkably relevant. It is a very serious and brave subject treated with respect and both productions managed to make something entertaining, moving and imaginative out of it without distaste coming through. The Ethel Rosenberg touch will either perplex or intrigue people, am in the latter camp myself.
'Perestroika' is a little more surreal somewhat in the visuals, bolder in scope and a little more imaginative, but it doesn't get over the top in that so the drama is never swamped. There is more breathing space in 'Perestroika', but the mometum is still there so one never feels the length. Whereas 'Millenium Approaches' is more philosophical, there is more of a theatrical approach to 'Perestroika', again without going overboard. The stage direction never falls into distaste or irrelevance and manages to make the storytelling and subject accessible while not trivialising, the emotional impact is felt and the relationships in both parts handled tactfully.
All the performances are superb, with James McArdle, Denise Gough and Russell Tovy portraying their conflicted characters with heartfelt charisma, Gough in particular.
Two in particular stood out. Andrew Garfield as the most developed character of both parts brings the right amount of camp and anguish. Most surprising was Nathan Lane, absolutely chilling as Cohn and proving that he can do more than just comedy.
Summarising, equally outstanding and both parts are must watches. 10/10