★★★ | From Morning To Midnight

“For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.” I felt rather like Miss Jean Brodie after seeing From Morning to Midnight at the Lyttleton Theatre last night. Evidently there were plenty around me who liked the play rather more than I did. Well, to be honest, I didn’t like it at all.

Admittedly we were not seeing it under the best of circumstances. Adam Godley, who was playing the central character of the Clerk had been taken ill, and his role was taken by understudy Jack Tarlton. Under the circumstances, Tarlton did a sterling job, but nobody can deny the debilitating effect of having to go on with an understudy so early in the run, and before the production had had a chance to settle down. One applauds Tarlton’s achievement, whilst duly noting that the balance of the whole can’t help but have been upset.

From Morning to Midnight is a German expressionist play, written in 1912 by Georg Kaiser, and initially banned for its portrayal of the Kaiser. The action unfolds over a single day, on which the clerk breaks with normality, absconds from the bank he works in with 60,000 marks and goes in search of something to make life worth living. The loosely linked scenes are given titles: Machine, Bourgeoisie, Epiphany, Family, Society, Sex and Salvation, but, unsurprisingly, his search is fruitless.

This is the theatre of ideas. None of the characters have names and all, even the clerk himself, are no more than ciphers, representatives of types; an Italian lady, a bank manager a society gent, mother, wife, daughter etc. Even the clerk is not a fully developed character, more of a catalyst for the events that unfold.

Production values, as so often at the National are consistently high, with ingenious sets by Soutra Gilmour. Director Melly Still has a firm grasp of her material, helped by some wonderful choreography from movement director Al Nedjari, but I remained uninterested and uninvolved. No doubt others will enjoy it more than I did.

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From Morning To Midnight plays at the Lyttleton Theatre until January 26th 2014

http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk