Shows directed by Katie Mitchell can go either way - her Women of Troy was fantastic, her ...some trace of her teeth-clenchingly bad. The newspaper reviews have said her version of Ferdinand Bruckner's Pains of Youth is a triumph, but I'd heard audience opinions that it was more of a yawn, and unfortunately I agreed with the latter. In Vienna between the Wars, a group of medical students are generally fed up, and get themselves sexually entangled with each other in various pairings. There's lots of angst but while there's nothing wrong with the performances as such, the production is lifeless, not helped by the low lighting throughout. Things get a bit better when Geoffrey Streatfeild as a sometimes violent charmer is on stage, but as he's the only charismatic character any time he's gone is a time when I got dangerously close to nodding off. And it really doesn't help that Mitchell has lumbered the production with a gimmick for scene changes which starts mildly interesting, becomes tedious, and ends up being an actual hindrance to the performance's already muted energy levels.
Pains of Youth by Ferdinand Bruckner in a version by Martin Crimp is booking until the 21st of January at the National Theatre's Cottesloe.