Reviews: Elisabeth Moss & Keira Knightley in The Children’s Hour at Comedy Theatre

When a schoolgirl’s whisper spreads, it triggers a chain of events with extraordinary consequences. Karen Wright (Keira Knightley) and Martha Dobie (Elisabeth Moss) run a girls’ boarding school in 1930’s New England, where they become entangled in a devastating story of deceit, shame and courage.

Banned in London and several cities across America, THE CHILDREN’S HOUR received its world premiere on Broadway in 1934. Generations on, its potent exploration of a culture of fear remains startlingly relevant.

Fresh from the theatrical triumph of Jerusalem, Ian Rickson directs two internationally acclaimed actresses and a dynamic ensemble in one of the 20th century’s most compelling dramas.

Press Reviews:-

“The play is far from perfect. It’s hard to believe that the grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) would fall so readily for her grandchild’s accusations, and though she is sometimes entertaining, the preposterous old actress who gives elocution lessons at the school doesn’t earn her dramatic keep, despite the sometimes laborious comic endeavours of Carol Kane.”

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph
[Rating:4.0/5]

“There’s only one question to which everyone wants the answer: can Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss cut the mustard? The short answer is that they prove as potent a combination on stage as at the box office. But, for all the excellence of their performances, and Ian Rickson’s ministrations as director, nothing will persuade me that Lillian Hellman’s 1934 play is any more than well-intentioned melodrama.”

Michael Billington
Guardian
[Rating:3.0/5]

“Knightley’s Karen begins as a focused, professional woman, looking elegant in period bob and pencil skirt. Hellman wants us to see how the pupil’s falsehood planted the seeds of mistrust not just in the parents but within its victims. Knightley’s performance is at its best in the difficult scene with her loyal fiancé (Tobias Menzies) when she realises that she will never be sure that he has managed to overcome all doubt and that she is not prepared to marry him on those terms. The actress’s manner here wavers most convincingly between angry touchiness and tearful tenderness as, in passages of poor man’s Ibsen, she released them both to their separate freedoms” 

Paul Taylor
The Independent
[Rating:3.0/5]

“In short, the acting is cogent, and the stars deliver. Yet for all the glamour and hype, it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is a very good production of a historically significant but rather flawed play.”

Henry Hitchings
The Evening Standard
[Rating:4.0/5]

“Miss Knightley’s role demands raw self-evisceration. That is what a great actress would bring to it. Miss Knightley tries. By God, she tries. She turns in a performance of which many a journeywoman thesp’ would be proud. But is she a real leading lady? Is she a genuine stage star? Not quite.”

Quentin Letts
The Daily Mail

“Directed with an unsparing, unflinching wash of feeling, beautifully designed by Mark Thompson and with lighting, music and sound (respectively by Neil Austin, Stephen Warbeck and Paul Groothuis) that all make their own seamless atmospheric interventions, this is commercial theatre not just at its most pricey but also best.”

Mark Shenton
The Stage

“This remains a gruesomely appropriate play on two counts: as a dissection of a whispering campaign twenty years in advance of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, let alone the insidious WikiLeaks brouhaha; and as a prescient commentary on how suburban puritanism and its sidekick, gloating prurience, stick their big noses into relationships between teachers and charges, especially today.”

Michael Coveney
Whatsonstage.com
[Rating:4.0/5]

Book tickets for The Children’s Hour at Comedy Theatre!

All My Sons at Apollo Theatre – Press Reviews!

All My Sons – the first great success of Arthur Miller’s supremely influential career – is a compelling story of love, guilt and the corrupting power of greed.

Joe Keller (David Suchet) is alleged to have supplied World War II fighter planes with defective engines, leading to the deaths of innocent pilots – a crime for which his business partner took the fall. One of Keller’s sons, himself a pilot, is thought to have been killed in action. But his mother (Zoe Wanamaker) can’t accept his death and equally, can’t accept that her dead son’s fiancee has transferred her affections to her other son. The confrontations that ensue lead to the uncovering of a shameful family secret…

All My Sons Press Reviews:

It was once said that “cover-up” is the great theme of American drama, and Miller’s 1947 play, which established his reputation and is now hailed by some – David Mamet, for instance – as his true masterpiece, contains the mother of all cover-ups. Joe was an ambitious manufacturer of household and industrial goods in the war – including a batch of faulty cylinder heads that caused the death of 21 pilots. Did he know about the fault before shipment?
Michael Coveney for Whatsonstage.com (www.whatsonstage.com)
[Rating:5.0/5]

Zoë Wanamaker is also outstanding as his wife, clenched with grief and driven almost mad by the lie on which her life is based, and there is terrific support from Stephen Campbell Moore as the honourable surviving son and Jemima Rooper as the girlfriend who delivers the coup de grace.
Charles Spencer for Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk)
[Rating:5.0/5]

David Suchet’s superb Joe is a man who conceals his guilt under a backyard bonhomie. He joshes his neighbours, lands mock punches on his loved ones’ faces, and plays the beaming, pipe-smoking patriarch. But, confronted by the truth of his past, Suchet shrivels before our eyes. It is as if the values by which he lives have been stripped bare along with the man himself.
Michael Billington for Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk)
[Rating:5.0/5]

People who don’t like this dramatist argue that that is precisely what Miller himself can’t resist doing. It’s true that there are moments when the themes – the penalties of denial and of putting self and family before the collective good – are spelt out too insistently. But watching Howard Davies’s emotionally searching, expertly acted revival, you’re persuaded that this is a small price to pay for the play’s fierce moral fervour and the psychological penetration of its insights.
Paul Taylor for The Independent (www.independent.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

Suchet is Joe Keller, an ordinary man with one excruciating flaw. He’s materially comfortable, but his security is the result of canny dealings during the Second World War, and there’s a nagging suspicion that the facade of respectability he’s erected is just one good nudge away from collapsing.
Henry Hitchings for Evening Standard (www.thisislondon.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

Each time one sees Zoe Wanamaker on stage she gains an extra dimension. Here she plays Joe’s wife Kate as a striking matriarch refusing to believe that her older son Larry died in the war. A woman in denial perhaps, but between her moments of grief and desolation she still invests the character with warmth, even a sense of flirtatious gaiety as an unwelcome visitor threatens the family security.
John Thaxter for TheStage (www.thestage.co.uk)

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