This review was originally written for the Londonist.
“I feel like my soul has been bathed in acid” says Colm (Jeremy Irons) near the beginning of Act Two. So will you after watching this new play by Dennis Kelly.
Starting off with the clean crimes committed from the safety of the boardroom, and moving to the bloody, fleshy ones of the battlefield, the world created in ‘The Gods Weep’ is one bristling with aggression. It’s a place inhabited by thoroughly nasty people who communicate with lies, bribes and strings of expletives. From the off, pretty much every single character invites a combination of horror and disgust. There are moments of humour, but it’s a desperate kind of nervous laughter that ripples from the audience. This is a long, bleak play where love is a weapon and nobody can be trusted.
Charting the fall of a so-called great man (his greatness comes from being an unscrupulous swine of a businessman and an inept father), you can see why this play is part of the RSC season at the Hampstead Theatre. We see Colm, a powerful man in charge of a successful global business, destroyed by the successors he crowns and kicked in the teeth by the monster of a son he has created. We see women driven mad by love. We see an ex-leader lost in the wilderness and saved by an innocent daughter. We see bodies piling up as the play slowly moves to its depressing climax.
The performances from the actors are strong, the set is simple but effective, the players are convincing in their depraved nastiness, but this is hard to watch. It’s a slog through an increasingly nonsensical portrait of humanity. The poetry that begins to spill out of the vile Colm’s mouth once he has fallen makes one’s eyes roll. He’s no King Lear.
There isn’t an inkling of hope in here and the pointlessness of it all left us cold and tired. The only positive thing was the feeling of relief that we don’t work for such a corporation as the one featured here, our desk jobs might sometimes be bad but they’re not THAT bad.
The Gods Weep runs at the Hampstead Theatre, NW3 until 3rd April. Find out more at www.hampsteadtheatre.com