Old Vic's 'little masterpiece' Fortune's Fool - reviews

Game of Thrones star Iain Glen is 'perfect' in fabulous production of Turgenev's rarely seen black comedy

LAST UPDATED AT 07:42 ON Wed 8 Jan 2014
What you need to know

Critics are praising the Old Vic's new production of Ivan Turgenev's rarely seen black comedy, Fortune's Fool, as "a little masterpiece". The play, adapted by Mike Poulton and directed by Lucy Bailey, stars Iain Glen from Game of Thrones. 

In Fortune's Fool a pair of newlyweds arrive at their country estate to find a dissolute gentleman, Kuzovkin (Glen), sleeping in a cupboard. An unwelcome visit from an overbearing neighbour and an alcohol-fuelled celebration prompt a revelation that will change their lives.

Co-stars Richard McCabe. Runs until 22 February.

What the critics like

The Old Vic has struck gold with this brilliant production of Turgenev's seldom-performed Fortune's Fool, says Kate Kellaway in The Observer. Glen's performance is perfect, McCabe is magnificent and there's exquisite ensemble work – "a little masterpiece".

This "wonderfully funny" and "deeply touching" play is an unjustly neglected classic that seems to anticipate both Chekhov and Gorky, says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. It's a beautifully fresh, observant production, with a strangely addictive mixture of melancholy and absurdity that springs surprises until the very end.

Bailey's production is "fabulous", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. Properly funny and properly sad, this unpredictable, gripping yarn proves an unexpected delight.

What they don't like

This production has fine performances and is watchable enough, "but what the play lacks is the nuanced layering of Chekhov" and the adroit handling of multiple narratives and characters, says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard. There are abundant dramatis personae, but few receive any sustained development. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.