StageScan Pick: Oslo

Oslo arrives at the Harold Pinter Theatre this week trailing an average 4.1 pro stars for its initial run at the NT. One of two awarding fives, Libby Purves (TheatreCat) found J T Rogers’s “three-hour historical political play about Middle East negotiations” manages to be “absolutely thrilling” and “pins you to your seat”. Natasha Tripney (The Stage) agreed: “For a play that chiefly consists of men in suits sitting around tables smoking and talking” it’s “gripping stuff”. Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph) admired the “deft combination of research, fictional intuition and dramatic compression” in this “justly acclaimed” play and Purves hailed its “perfectly paced, intensely clear structure” and “fast-sparking dramatic dialogue”. Tripney enjoyed “a remarkable lightness of touch… witty, nimble and full of pleasing detail”. Michael Billington (Guardian), acknowledging “a dramatist who delights in process,” felt “Rogers successfully immerses us in the crises of the particular moment”. Tripney, suggesting protagonists Mona and Terje had “made progress” because they repeatedly “returned things to a human level,” felt “the play pulls off a similar trick”.

Cavendish hailed Bartlett Sher’s “riveting… tense and sharply paced” production. Purves found it “clear and fast,” Tripney thought it “assured” and Billington admired its combination of “epic sweep” and “emphasis on the individuals”. Purves found the acting “remarkable” suggesting “seldom do you remember you are watching performances,” rather “you are looking through them… marvelling at history and hope”. Tripney reported “a tight ensemble” working to “a high level of detail” and found many “small gestures… dramatically satisfying”.  Billington agreed “the drama lies in the detail” but admitted “my head started to spin with information overload”.

Tripney felt Toby Stephens “anchors the play” and observed “a dash of arrogance” in his “fastidious” Terje. Billington agreed he “brings out the vanity and self-regard behind Larsen’s idealism” and Purves found him “often very funny”. Tripney thought Lydia Leonard’s Mona “similarly superb”.

Purves also thought Nabil Elouahabi “tremendous” as Hassan, “a tense ball of fury… who moves through sullenness and anger to acceptance”. Billington saw Peter Polycarpou and Philip Arditti “brilliantly suggest men of sizeable ego and seeming intransigence who yet manage to achieve a genuine human connection”. Purves found “comedy” in Paul Herzberg and Thomas Arnold’s economics professors and Billington reported “good support” from Howard Ward and Geraldine Alexander.

Tripney thought it “works” as both “documentary theatre” and “a valuable reminder of just what can be achieved”. Billington described an “engrossing… instructive lesson about the primacy of the personal in global affairs”. Cavendish thought “the way a tiny vessel of hope managed to navigate its way across a great gulf of hostility and mistrust… brilliantly conveyed” leaving an audience to just “watch, learn and marvel”.

Booking to 30 Dec 2017 with tickets starting at £21 available from Stagescan. We also have tickets for James Graham’s latest political drama, Labour of Love.

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