The Welkin, National Theatre - ★★★★ - Until May 23, 2020

Photographer: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg.

The year is 1759 and in the welkin (or sky above) Halley's comet is approaching. From earth below it's presence will be an omen for the superstitious and a phenomenon for the scientific. This is a period at the cusp of change. Reason is challenging religion while traditional male and female roles are being questioned. In this setting a horrific murder takes place and a jury of matrons is called to determine if one of the accused is pregnant and thus exempt from execution. The women's approaches reflect the clash between the traditional worldview and the emerging new reality. It is a very interesting premise, and while Lucy Kirkwood's play approaches these issues with considerable humour and drama, the final work seemed rather uneven. The first act was a jury room drama reminiscent of Twelve Angry Men while the second act with its surprise revelations, plot twists and horror had an almost Gothic quality. Maxine Peake did a fine job as Elizabeth Luke, the rationalist new woman, and Ria Zmitrowicz was strong as the accused murderer who is torn between the reality of her assigned lot in life and the aspiration for more. Indeed, all of the actors did an amazing job of establishing their individual identities in a large cast of characters. As always at the National Theatre, the production was first rate. This is a long evening in the theatre but it offers an interesting look at how one world gradually and painfully gives birth to another.

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆ 

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WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until May 23, 2020
Various show times available. See website below.
National Theatre
Nearest tube: Waterloo
https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-welkin

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