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Light Shining in Buckinghamshire

Published 24 April 2015

What’s it all about?

Exactly two weeks before the votes are counted for this year’s general election, the National Theatre opens a play that tells the epic story of the late 1600s when political reform meant the difference between living and dying as the poor starved and the rich flourished.

Caryl Churchill’s vast work, staged impeccably by the brilliant Lyndsey Turner, brings speeches from the Putney Debates of 1647 together with snapshots of life in a time of both revolutionary excitement and desperate despair to create a historical drama to resonate with today’s political landscape.

Who’s in it?

A huge company of more than 50 actors floods Es Devlin’s awe-inspiring set. A huge table – think football pitch massive – is the stage as the rich feast from overflowing dishes of lobsters and meat, while the commoners stand atop giant fruit bowls to debate or pull up a pew on an oversized serving cloche to listen.

It’s hard to pull out favourites from the accomplished ensemble but a magnetic Amanda Lawrence  shines out, especially affecting as a woman persuading a new mother to leave her child behind, while Ashley McGuire is compelling as a hard-nosed loner who has done unspeakable things in the name of survival, and Joshua James brings wit and energy as a religious zealot intent on reinventing the rules.

What should I look out for?

Did we mention Devlin’s set? Every scene is a new staggering wonder as the multi Olivier Award winner’s invention is transformed from luxurious dining rooms to mud-soaked fields.

In a nutshell?

As the UK gets ready for change, brush up on your 15th century politics in Lyndsey Turner’s impeccable staging of the Caryl Churchill epic.  

What’s being said on Twitter?

@JoCaird I gasped with curiosity & delight at every scene change in Light Shining in Buckinghamshire. One of my all time fave @nationaltheatre sets

@giles_fraser Saw terrific “Light Shining in Buckinghamshire” this week @NationalTheatre. So much more interested in politics of 1649 than 2015.

Will I like it?

Theatre lovers will revel in Devlin’s stunning design and Turner’s stylish direction, while history buffs will find much food for thought in this challenging production.

Light Shining In Buckinghamshire is playing until 22 June. You can book tickets through the National Theatre’s website.


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