Review Exit The King, National Theatre by Hannah Goslin


 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)


On the trans-formative stage that is the Olivier auditorium, something special is about to unfold.

Exit The King never really intrigued me before. But knowing such great actors such as Rhys Ifans (predominantly known for his starring role in Notting Hill and for our Welsh readers, Twin Town)  and Adrian Scarborough (Gavin and Stacey), along with such wonderful reviews, I was easily turned.

Unusually for the National, this play includes no interval – my favourite! There is nothing like immersing oneself into a production, and this one is definitely one that needs your full attention and no interruptions.

A play written by Eugène Lonesco, Exit The King is the story of a King who created everything in the World, but becoming greedy with this and the thought of living forever, is coming to the end of his life at 400 years old, and cannot give it up.

There is a clowning essence to the take of this piece – slapstick comedy is consistent and brings the right amount of laughter with it, gently provoked and visa versa by the writing, with its witty humour. As well as smudged clown make up, making this feel hyper-real.

But it is also dark, thought provoking an emotional. As Ifans character deteriorates, it’s all too realistic and while the humour continues, it’s hard to find him as a comical character when he becomes so vulnerable and worth pity.  And do not mistake this as criticism – this is exactly how this should be played and Ifans is nothing but a triumph! Even saying this about Ifans and his acting skills is almost too little a compliment – I’ve have always been a fan from his films but he brings out something else, something extraordinary on the stage. And with seats luckily as close as mine, being up close and personal as I honorably got to be, you can see how he envelopes the character into every essence of his being, physically, emotionally and deep into his soul.

Scarborough is as bafoon-ish and comical as you would suggest. A character as The Doctor was made for him – while in a way he is often typecast in these roles, he magically makes them all different, all new and this is of no exception. Complimenting the play and the writing, he has the ability to go from humorous to dark and cold and does this with ease and believe- ability.

Let’s not forget our leading ladies – both are so accomplished and different to one another. Indira Varma (Bride and Prejudice ) plays a quintessential posh Queen, with hilarity in her no-nonsense approach to Ifans, and ends with being the most poetic, heart felt and enticing monologue that is hard to look away from.

Amy Morgan, of Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama training, plays the over the top and hyper-real french, ‘true love’,  second Queen – pink, pretty, prissy and very french. She plays a great contrast to Varma’s character, very chalk and cheese and their duo makes a great battle of wit, beauty and intelligence.

Exit The King is nothing but outstanding. Going in without any expectations (as I like to with all productions)  I was suitably blown away by its perfection, its absurdity, its ability to pull on your emotions but also make you cackle out loud with laughter.

And coming away, I was more than starstruck by one of my heroes, Rhys Ifans.


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