Waste starring Charles Edwards and Olivia Williams

Published November 11, 2015

What’s it all about?

Sex, scandal, politics, fatal abortions and ruined lives (several of them).

This is the story of independent MP Henry Trebell and how his relations with a married woman lead to tragedy, both for his mistress and for his aim to disestablish the Church of England.

Who’s in it?

Charles Edwards, an actor we are yet to see even slightly off top form, is captivating as the suave, seductive and ambitious Henry. The disgraced politician isn’t the most likeable character – uncaring and distant – but you still can’t blame Olivia Williams’ Amy O’Connell for falling for his persistent advances. Williams, too, is compelling, hysterical and brimming with despair as the doomed woman who feels she has only one direction to turn.

There is great support from the rest of the cast including Sylvestra Le Touzel as Henry’s devoted sister Frances and Edwards’ co-star in the Globe’s Richard II this summer William Chubb as the moustachioed George Farrant, who brings an element of Basil Fawlty to his negotiations.

What should I look out for?

The gradually filling waste paper basket in Trebell’s office. A metaphor for the many different examples of waste to which the title may refer?

Hildegard Bechtler’s minimalist meets beige meets geometric set design, which captures the era while giving the production a modern twist.

In a nutshell?

Charles Edwards and Olivia Williams shine in this expertly performed production of a play once considered so scandalous it was banned from the public stage.

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Will I like it?

While Harley Granville Barker’s 1920 play may have some contemporary resonances in today’s society – the media sure does love a political scandal! – its subject matter certainly isn’t as shocking as it would have been for audiences almost a century ago. That said, there are some performances to really cherish in Roger Michell’s production – have we mentioned Edwards and Williams? – which truly make this three hours of theatre worth watching.

Waste is playing at the National Theatre Lyttelton until 19 March. You can book tickets through the venue’s website.