A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

London Tide

London Tide
13 April 2024
National Theatre
2.0 out of 5.0 stars

Based in Dickens’ story Our Mutual Friend, London Tide is a new play currently playing at the National Theatre. And it’s a long one with a run time over three hours.

The story is mostly true to the original novel. In 1860s London, a body is pulled from the Thames and quickly identified, through papers in their overcoat, as John Harmon, heir to a vast fortune. One stipulation for his inheritance was that he had to marry a woman chosen by his late father, Bella Wilfer, a stranger he has never met. Through is presumed death, the servants of the late Mr. Harmon, the Boffins, come into unexpected wealth they want to freely share with the newly minted unmarried widow Bella. At the same time, Lizzie Hexam tries to break free from her abusive father, who discovered the body in the Thames and is later accused of causing the death of John Harmon. The real John however goes by John Rokesmith and weaves his way into the lives of the Boffins and Bella, trying to find out how they were connected to his late father, whose abusive manipulation he fled as a young man. Things get heated up when a lawyer and a headteacher vie for the affections of Lizzie, leading to much drama and intrigue.

It is a complex web of intertwining stories brought together through their connection to John Harmon, who they presume dead for a majority of the story. The staging is a little confused and tedious, with slow and haunting songs woven throughout the play, dragging out the plot without adding much to it.

While the story is well told, it is heavy with unnecessary symbolism and songs that don’t quite fit the narrative. It is a valiant effort to bring this old story to life, but falls flat with characters that feel more like caricatures than real people, and dragging music that brings the runtime to an uncomfortable length. The stark and minimalist stage design, and very dark lighting does not help bring life to the stage. This production does not to Dickens justice, turning a story of intrigue and jealousy into a slog that drags on for far too long.

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