Theatre: Angels in America review

Angels In America at The National Theatre, until 19 August


To mark the theatrical event of this season – which Angels In America by Tony Kushner has clearly become – I already had the preconception that I was going to be blown away and of course I was, as was the rest of the audience that saw this magnificent theatrical box set recently. It’s all there; a lack of fidelity, sexual denial and confusion, promiscuity, lust, drug dependency, gothic hospital horror, delusional behaviour and revenge – real edge-of-your-seat stuff.

At almost eight hours running time interspersed with short breaks, I was swept away on a cloud of emotion that had me tingling and admiring the dazzling writing of Kushner.

This is the story of a group of Americans affected by the AIDS virus, Ronald Reagan’s America and the power of the Mormon Church.

The acting talent is off the Richter scale with Nathan Lane going from puppy dog to full on wolf. He plays the only factual character in the play – Roy Cohn, the self-loathing homophobic homosexual who insists that on his medical notes it reads ‘liver cancer’ and not that he has the AIDS virus – and Lane’s command of the role is breathtaking. The role requests that he uses the ‘F’ word repeatedly and every time he utters that word there is force with his uttering that is delectable.

Russell Tovey plays Joe, who finally comes to term with his own sexuality at the expense of his marriage, and is extremely watchable, as is Denise Gough who plays his valium addicted wife. The intensity of the scenes between them garnered audible gasps. James McArdle as manipulative office worker Louis is also at the top of his game.

The macabre nature of the Angel played by Amanda Lawrence is simply spectacular. And a special mention has to go to Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Belize who adds a comedy element to the proceedings – a beautiful and brilliant a gifted actor.

However it’s the stunning Andrew Garfield as Prior Walter that will have you cheering. There must be a guardian angel sitting on the shoulder of director Marianne Elliott who has created a visually impressive interpretation of Kushner’s seminal play.

Stephen Vowles

Angels In America runs until 19 August at the National Theatre (Lyttelton), South Bank, London, SE1 9PX. Book tickets via the box office on 020 7452 3000 or

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