Updated: Jul 15, 2022
The Bee always wanted to go and watch Ralph Fiennes on stage and would have gone sooner if it had been able to get decent seats at a reasonable price.
Fiennes delivers a compelling, poignant and evocative performance, pulling off the nuances of his character's tone, accent, expressions, stance, gesticulations, movements, everything with flair.
He portrayed a powerful character quite powerfully. He made me hate the character but love his portrayal of the character at the same time.
The Bee is also full of praise for the writing. What a masterpiece by David Hare. (Spoiler) The story explores the prime years of Robert Moses, his idiosyncratic ideas and philosophies, how he justified those ideas to himself and to those around him he cared to talk to. Hare illustrated beautifully both the micro and macro effects of this man’s vision and philosophy. (Micro effects on the people he worked with, and how they all came to admire him and hate his presumptuousness at the same time. Macro effects on the development of infrastructure in New York.)
You can’t help but wonder if an arrogant character, who is completely and utterly convinced of his own superiority in his art and has a complete disregard for any rules or authority that may undermine his autonomy over said art, ever makes a mistake.
If he does, does he view it as a mistake? Or is his facility with delusion so strong that he isn’t able to see it as one? Does he get away with it? If he doesn’t, does he come to be humble about his limitations? Or does any rejection from society only strengthen his own convictions about his superiority? Hare answers these questions beautifully and satisfyingly through the Moses character.
The drama is intense and unfolds at a perfect pace. The set is designed elegantly, making full use of the large stage available to establish a strong presence for each actor. The supporting actors bring forth their own peculiarities in a consistent way throughout.
(Spoiler) The only thing that didn’t add up to the Bee is how a man of the stature of Robert Moses, with all his arrogance and presumptuousness, his contempt for the masses and all things mainstream, deemed his entry-level employees, some of them fresh graduates, barely adults yet, so important that he should explain and justify each one of his high-level decisions and ideas to them. And how these underlings are so confident as to disagree and challenge a boss who is at least three decades their senior, when clearly they don’t have the credentials to be taken seriously (by anyone let alone Moses). Maybe Moses prided himself so much on his recruitment that he saw his protégés as much more capable, intelligent and deep than they may have seemed to an outsider. But where on earth is the middle management in this office? It’s a little weird and rather unrealistic that Moses works directly with the draftsmen.
But the Bee did leave the theatre feeling like it had immersed itself completely in an extremely compelling and interesting biography, and couldn’t help but feel moved by the man’s vision and sheer sense of possibility.
Watched 10 May 2022 at the Bridge Theatre, Tower Bridge, London.
P.S. Cheap tickets tip: get rush tickets on TodayTix at 10 am. You can potentially get a stalls seat with a central view of the stage at just £25. Rush tickets were easy to find, the Bee never got locked out of the process due to excessive demand. Just that it took a few tries before the Bee got exactly the seat she wanted; in the beginning she kept winding up with stalls seats but on the side (so you face the left edge of the stage instead of the front edge, which the Bee always finds rather annoying. Why do theatres even have seating on the sides?) It was worth it, as you can see from the spectacular views. The Bridge theatre is elegant, and has a stage that is rather large and yet quite accessible to the audience. Outside the theatre is the Tower Bridge which is a spectacle in itself.