Nye ★★★★★ National Theatre | Feb 24 - May 11, 2024

From miner to minister, Nye Bevan's career had a fascinating trajectory, and his creation of the NHS became a defining pillar of British politics. Bevan also had a complex and unconventional personal life. His relationship with his family haunts him in the play and his marriage with socialist and feminist, Jennie Lee, is no simple matter. Bevan's vision, his vanity, his stubbornness, his fearlessness and his naïveté are all on display. The interactions with a bombastic and cunning Winston Churchill, and the synergy with the equally shrewd and determined Clement Attlee are fascinating. Tim Price's play has a lot to cover, and it provides a tantalising overview of the multifaceted Bevan. Michael Sheen and Sharon Small shine as Nye and Jennie, and Stephanie Jacob is a fine Attlee. Kudos also to Tony Jayawardena as Churchill. As always, the National Theatre's production is quite brilliant, and Vicki Mortimer's sets display an ingenious inventiveness and versatility. Director Rufus Norris has ensured that the pace never flags. The time flies by and one leaves the theatre feeling that writer Price has barely pulled back the curtains on the multifaceted personality that was Aneurin Bevan. While the personal life is interesting, for us it was the political drama that we wanted more of. The Bevan/Attlee dynamic is fascinating. The Churchill battles are enthralling, and the struggle with the medical establishment is compelling. In the final analysis, it's the sign of a true coup d'éclat when the curtain falls, and one simply wishes there had been more.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo © Johan Persson

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