It's time for my review of My Brilliant Friend.
When the most important person in her life goes missing without a trace, Lenu Greco, now a celebrated author, begins to recall a relationship of more than 60 years. First meeting on the dangerous streets of postwar Naples, friends Lila and Lenu experience turbulent social and political change, from the rise of the Camorra to the sexual revolution and the transformation of their neighbourhood, city and nation. Even as life repeatedly tries to pull them in separate directions, they remain inextricably bound to one another.
My Brilliant Friend is primarily a play that focuses on interpersonal relationships, including friendships, marriage and family relations. This two-part play, which lasts a grand total of 5 hours, showcases a time period spanning 60 years, and in the process portrays a varying number of different relationships. It's absolutely fascinating to see the way in which these relationships develop over this length of time, and as the play concludes it feels as if we have been on a real journey. At the centre of the play however is the unlikely friendship of Lenù and Lila; two friends who meet at an early age, spend much of their childhood side by side, and later rely on one another through signifiant portions of adulthood. Both Lenù and Lila are intriguing characters, and their unique friendship made for both an engrossing and moving story. The pair have somewhat different personalities, and yet they are still able to come together and form a strong partnership. Their initial friendship as children is rather endearing, and it is fascinating to see the way in which it evolves as time goes on. The story of my Brilliant Friend also serves as a vehicle to explore a number of other themes, such as the social upheaval in Italy that has taken place throughout the last century. The play explores these topics authentically and with great care, and it was interesting to learn the ways in which Italian culture has developed in recent years.
The entirety of the cast were excellent; the piece required multiple actors to portray a handful of different characters, which in turn allowed them to show a great range of skills. Additionally, as a result of the play having to show the characters through a prolonged period of time, the cast often had to portray a number of different stages of life. The performers all did this masterfully, and the natural progression of the characters was evident throughout. In the leading roles of Lenù and Lena are Niamh Cusack and Catherine McCormack respectively, both of which gave truly outstanding performances. Their characterisations were flawless, and they marvellously showed the development of their respective characters. Cusack and McCormack had wonderful chemistry with each other, and their friendship felt highly believable.
The set design, by Soutra Gilmour, was minimalist, but proved to be effective throughout. It was used in a very creative manner, and was good at displaying a wide variety of different locations. Another element of creativity which shined was the use of puppetry, designed by Toby Olié. Whenever the play depicts acts of atrocity or violence, puppetry is often used in place of the actors. This idea was ingenious, and it seemed to allude to the idea of an 'out-of-body experience'. I had not seen puppetry used in this way before, and I therefore commend the show for its inspired ideas.
Now for my final verdict on My Brilliant Friend. I give My Brilliant Friend...
My Brilliant Friend followed an intriguing story, featured a remarkable cast and showed signs of genuine creativity. It was simply all-round outstanding.
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Thanks for reading!
-The Basic Theatre Reviewer