Review: Berenice

By John Nathan, October 11, 2012
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Donmar Warehouse, London WC2

Jean Racine's rarely produced (in Britain) Roman tragedy takes place in the aftermath of victory over the Jews of Judea and is set in a Rome bedecked with Jewish booty. Not that you can see any in Lucy Osborne's sand-strewn set which gives Josie Rourke's production a timeless quality.

Considering that Racine's play is constructed almost entirely out of ardent declarations of love, it takes an awfully long time before the 100 minutes of this play – translated by novelist Alan Hollinghurst with crystal if unexciting clarity – delivers a scintilla of the copious amounts of emoting on stage.

What we do get is almost entirely dependent on Anne-Marie Duff's heart-rending Berenice. The plot – such as it is – revolves around the volatility of Rome's public opinion which prevents Stephen Campbell Moore's almost catatonically sulky Titus from marrying the foreign-born Berenice. Dominic Rowan's long-suffering prince Antiochus, who is torn by his love for Berenice and his loyalty to Titus, provides oases of sardonic irony about his and their predicament.

Watching the status of these self-obsessed demigods deflate to that of a lightly sordid suburban love triangle, has a certain reward. Though somehow I doubt that was director Josie Rourke's intention. (Tickets: 0844 871 7624)

Last updated: 12:48pm, October 11 2012