In the current National Theatre booking period, my schedule wouldn't quite fit many of the shows early in their runs (I've been luckier in the next one that just recently went on sale.) So it's been hard to avoid hearing a lot about them and coming to them with preconceptions. Certainly this was the case with Greenland, which for the last couple of months I've been hearing bad or at best indifferent things about, and which I finally saw tonight. At least I knew I could look forward to a cast featuring a number of men I enjoy looking at - Peter McDonald, Sam Swann and, most excitingly if you're me, Rhys Rusbatch. Who still hasn't got the other nipple out, the little tease.
The latest attempt by the NT to deal with environmental issues, it's a climate change drama by four playwrights, each of whom I've seen and enjoyed at least one play by before: Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne. Each seems to have contributed a plot strand or two, the job of making a show out of them going to dramaturg Ben Power and director Bijan Sheibani. They do their best, especially Sheibani with the help of designer Bunny Christie, but the fact that the show was to all intents and purposes written by committee remains pretty obvious. A scientist (McDonald) has come up with a devastatingly bleak projection of the planet's future and shares it with a political aide (Lyndsey "Professor Jagat from Being Human" Marshall) at the Copenhagen summit of 2009; a student (Isabella Laughland) drops out and joins a charismatic activist (Rusbatch) in his campaigns; a scientist (Michael Gould) who's been tracking guillemot populations for decades converses with a young man (Swann) through time; and so on. There's some absolutely beautiful imagery and an energetic, committed cast but this is two hours of preaching to the converted. With the Royal Court currently showing the (more loosely) climate change-themed The Heretic I kind of feel as if the National are experiencing a replay of the financial crisis plays from a couple of years ago. While The Heretic isn't as good as ENRON and Greenland is nowhere near as bad as The Power of Yes (although one scene did give me horrible flashbacks to that non-play) it once again seems the NT have gone for a rather worthy approach and lost out to the RC's more outside-the-box thinking.
At least teh pretty doesn't disappoint. Especially Rhys Rusbatch whose short beard and buzzcut rather suit him. He might still be withholding that elusive other nipple but he does appear barefoot in a lycra diving suit at one point. So that's me not needing to look at any dirty photos on the internet tonight. Oh I'm sorry, was that too much information?
So to summarise the play: Rhys Rusbatch in lycra. Greenland by Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne is in repertory until the 2nd of April at the National Theatre's Lyttelton.