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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Vertical Hour
Park Theatre   Autumn 2014

Playwright David Hare is at his best when, like Shaw, he makes the exchange of ideas theatrical, and this 2006 play, which consists largely of people sitting around expressing their thoughts, will hold you throughout, despite a hit-and-miss production. 

Hare's subject is politics, most specifically the Iraq wars, more broadly the question of Western intervention in other countries for humanitarian reasons, even more generally whether there is any point in trying to make the world a better place.

All these things are debated in the course of the play, but its real insight is that all politics is ultimately personal, and that where people stand on large political issues is most likely a reflection of who they are and how their personal lives have shaped them. 

There are a couple of minor characters, but the play centres on a woman political science professor and supporter of the wars, her essentially apolitical lover who is just trying to be a good man in his own small sphere, and his estranged father, who reacted to a tragedy in his life by withdrawing into isolation.

I won't go into the play's revelations because discovering them is part of its power, except to note that the more we learn about each character as a person, the richer our understanding of their political positions becomes. 

If occasionally it's a bit schematic – oh, it's because this happened that he/she feels this – it's a legitimate series of insights into both the personal and the political. 

Still, it is also essentially static – just people sitting around talking – and director Nigel Douglas hasn't fully conquered the challenge the playwright set him to make it visual and theatrical. 

Thusitha Jayasundera gives an oddly tentative performance as the academic, as if unsure of her lines, and thus can't provide an equal match to Peter Davison as the father, though some of Davison's smooth authority occasionally hints at the veteran actor coasting on surface technique. 

Finlay Robertson can't do very much with what is admittedly the least fully defined of the trio, and Cameron Cuffe and Pepter Lunkuse are given nice showcase moments in a brief scene each.

Gerald Berkowitz


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Review - The Vertical Hour - Park Theatre 2014

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