In Review

Theatre and summer opera: the reopening continues

What are the critics saying about After Life, The Girl Next Door and Garsington Opera’s production of Der Rosenkavalier?

“Hallelujah!” said Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph. Their full reopening may have had to be delayed, but many of the nation’s theatres are now emerging from the pandemic – and among them is the National Theatre itself, which lost a third of its workforce to the financial storms of Covid. It’s wonderful just to be back in the NT building; to also be “transported” by its first post-pandemic offering, After Life (at the Dorfman until 7 August), is a “boundless joy”.

Adapted by Jack Thorne from the Japanese film of the same name, the piece is set in an “ethereal processing centre” where the newly deceased must select a single memory to take with them to the afterlife. It’s an “odd” play, said Sarah Crompton on What’s On Stage – and yet “overwhelmingly moving”, and “profoundly satisfying in the subtle ways it deals with grief, doubt and death”. It is the “perfect way to deal with some of the emotions” aroused by the pandemic.

After Life

The Girl Next Door (at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until 3 July) is the latest play from the “staggeringly prolific” Alan Ayckbourn – and it is “inventive, empathetic, timely and fun”, said Dominic Maxwell in The Times. Set during the pandemic, it is Ayckbourn’s 85th play – and it provides rousing evidence that the 82-year-old’s powers are “undimmed”, said Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail.

His clever and playful script is about a 60-year-old TV actor named Rob whose lockdown boredom is eased when he spies a woman dressed in 1940s clothing, hanging out washing in his neighbours’ garden. What unfolds is a “delightful mix of past and present”: a “brilliantly constructed” exploration of wartime sacrifice in which “inconsequential details” become “later revelations”, and featuring a twist that “transforms the tale into an uncanny ghost story”.

Thank heavens, too, for the return of that delicious summer treat, country house opera, said Hugh Canning in The Sunday Times. The season has got off to a flying start with Garsington Opera’s outstanding new production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (until 3 July). Director Bruno Ravella finds the perfect balance between novelty and tradition with an updating that “never undermines the emotional landscape of Strauss’s nostalgic score”.

The Swedish soprano Miah Persson is sensational as the Marschallin. And Gary McCann’s lavish design is masterly. Indeed, “I’ll stick my neck out: no UK production of the past 50 years, even Visconti’s at Covent Garden, has a comparable wow factor”. If I were in charge of the Royal Opera House, I would “snap up” this production and bring it to London “prontissimo”. This “sumptuous” staging simply must be revived.

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