Review Closer Lyric Hammersmith

Review: Closer, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

Review: Closer, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

A 25th-anniversary revival of a play that remains as painfully relevant, unflinching and brutally honest as ever. 


There are so many horribly bad jokes to be made about how Closer is the perfect show for these days of searing heat but the brilliant new production of Patrick Marber’s iconic play is indeed a searing portrayal of love both brutal and gentle, both cruel and illuminating.  

Famous for its complex exploration of sexual politics, Closer tells a story of four people who are, to put it bluntly, screwing each other over and otherwise. Wannabe author and obituarist Dan takes Alice to the hospital after she has been hit by a taxi. They fall in love right away. In the hospital, they encounter Larry, a doctor who gives Alice a cigarette. Fast forward a year, Anna takes Dan’s pictures for his book debut. He then unwittingly sets her up with Larry via a spicy convo in an adult chat room. Does it all look like it’s working out for everyone? Well, soon it’s not anymore, as the intricate game of love, realisations, neediness and sexual desires sets off.  

The cast of four is absolutely stellar but Sam Troughton as Larry is a real standout. Ironically perhaps the most innocent out of the four, he is torn between the raw brutality of his need to be a “caveman” (in his own words) and a desperate search for tender and genuine love. He is pathetic and frightening, and deeply broken. As is everyone else. Ella Hunt (Alice) oscillates between disarming waif-like innocence and cold aforethought revealed via the final twist, gliding through the stage with increasingly desperate ostentation. Nina Toussaint-White (Anne) creates her role in such a stark contrast to Hunt it’s almost as if they were two aspects of the same person (and maybe they are, in the Dan/Larry/Marber’s male gaze) – older and more refined, most probably from a different social stratum, her needs for love and acceptance are no different to Alice’s and she can be just as skilled manipulating her sexuality. Jack Farthing is utterly despicable as Dan. 

This revival’s director, Clare Lizzimore, had an ambitious idea of creating something of a Brechtian set to distance the audience from the play’s original 90s setting and leave more space for politics. The execution is sort of halfway there – it mostly works but turns out very distracting in some scenes, particularly when a dimly lit small ensemble (apparently trainees from the theatre’s Springboard programme) does some obscure things upstage. There are also two terrific professional musicians out there at all times (Radhika Aggarwal and Arun Ghosh who also composed and arranged the show’s amazing score himself) so it can easily get a bit too crowded. Music-wise, there is also this slightly bizarre concept when Alice attempts to sing some era-appropriate songs to accompany the plot. Thankfully they’re short and thankfully the concept dissolves completely by act two. 

There is searing power in this production. 25 years since Closer had its opening night at the National Theatre, it has remained painfully relevant, unflinching and brutally honest, and barring a social revolution, will probably remain so for at least another 25 years.  

Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, until 13 August

Image: Sam Troughton & Nina Toussaint-White, Closer, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, credit: Marc Brenner