Review: Timon Of Athens

By John Nathan, August 15, 2008
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Globe Theatre, London SE1
★★★✩✩

In 2006 Lucy Bailey's superb production of Titus Andronicus featured a Rome so violent it made Grand Theft Auto's Liberty City look like Trumpton. It was the most exciting three hours I have spent at the Globe, a theatre whose deadening stage can suck the life out of the liveliest play. Much of what Bailey and designer William Dudley achieved is replicated here with Shakespeare's morality play. Dudley creates a rare intimacy in this open-air space by stretching a net overhead that serves as a nest on which Athenians perch like preying crows ready to steal from Simon Paisley Day's spendthrift nobleman Timon.

He gives so much to his fair-weather pals you would think money and friends were going out of fashion - which is exactly what happens when Timon's munificence lands him in poverty, and his parasitic peers reject him. During the good times, Day's Timon exhibits a winning affability - enough to forgive his naiveté.

During the bad he is part-Lear and part-Caliban - a filthy outcast who bears his bottom so explicitly the Globe's entire audience simultaneously recoiled. Dramatically, it is a risky moment that reveals not just Day's posterior but the uncivilised depths to which Timon has descended. Yet like many a cautionary tale, Shakespeare's spends a lot of time playing out the inevitable. And it's only when Bo Poraj's critical Apamandus engages the rude, nude Timon in a verbal joust about human nature, does the profane touch on the profound. (Tel: 020 7401 9919)

    Last updated: 5:02pm, August 14 2008