I enjoyed the acting but sometimes got confused with the dialogue. My companion thought the dialogue the highlight and the acting the weaker element.
The Hard Problem is 77 year old Stoppard’s first play for the stage since 2006 and expectations were high from the author responsible for such offerings as Shakespeare in Love, Arcadia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
In the United Kingdom, where the play premiered earlier in the year at the Dorfman Theatre, critics have been divided. Some have described it as `a stimulating work’ and `100 minutes of brilliant brainache’ while others have been critical of its lack of intellectual rigour. Similarly there were divisions about the characters – with some critics praising their complexities and others claiming they were one dimensional!
Most praised the acting ability of the lead – Olivia Vinall, who plays Hilary, a psychology researcher who works at the Brain Science Institute. She is nursing a private sorrow and a troubling question at work, where psychology and biology meet. If there is nothing but matter what is consciousness? This is the `hard problem’ which puts Hilary at odds with her colleagues who include her first mentor Spike (Damien Molony), her boss Leo (Jonathan Coy) and the billionaire founder of the Institute, Jerry (Anthony Calf).
While I had no problems with the storyline and dialogue regarding Hilary’s `private sorrow’ and her relationships with others in her life, I did at times get lost in the arguments regarding the `hard question.’ For my companion the plot and characters were secondary. What was so stimulating and enjoyable for him was “the witty, intelligent argument about various important and contentious issues / ideas.” The sly literary allusions were a bonus.
And that’s the great advantage of this and other plays offered by National Theatre Live- you don’t have to the travel to London to see these plays and have such discussions!
National Theatre Live is an initiative by the National Theatre of Great Britain to broadcast live performances onto cinema screens around the world. Upcoming productions include Man and Superman, Everyman and Hamlet. A View from the Bridge has already been shown.
The Hard Problem screens from May 23 at selected theatres around Australia. Visit Sharmill Films for more information.
Jenny Burns attended a preview of The Hard Problem at Cinema Nova on May 13 as a guest of Sharmill Films.
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