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The Greatest Play In The History Of The World at Trafalgar Studios

The Greatest Play In The History Of The World - Photographer credit: Savannah Photographic.
The Greatest Play In The History Of The World – Photographer credit: Savannah Photographic.

I LOVED this play! It is very funny, very poignant – you quickly feel as if Julie Hesmondhalgh is performing just for you, so involving is the story she tells, aided by the intimate space of the theatre.

I won’t trouble to try to explain the title, as it is dealt with in the script, but it takes you on a journey that starts and ends in a quiet, unassuming house, on a quiet suburban road. A man wakes in the middle of the night to discover that the world has stopped – through the crack in his bedroom curtains he can see no signs of life at all, except a woman at a window in the house opposite looking at him…

The play is beautifully written by the actor’s husband, Ian Kershaw. He has the gift of writing totally naturalistic dialogue so that we really have faith in what we are being told, however unlikely that is! The script has so much variety in pace and nuance, yet is always totally believable. He says, in a programme note, that the play “is about life and living and what happens when we’re gone…. about love and life and how as mortals we learn to really live… lost love and found love”.

When we enter the 100 seat auditorium, Julie is already onstage with a mug of coffee, talking to us as we find our seats and we barely notice when the play actually starts. She has that rare thing, charisma – she is totally watchable and draws us in very quickly to the story she is telling – it feels as if she is improvising, rather than a play that has been written down, and is all the better for that. This is not acting, this is ‘being’.

The play is imaginatively directed by Raz Shaw – “we discovered a way of working together that was always honest -stuffed full of sarcasm on both sides and ever thrilling and enlightening”. He ensures that the whole space is inventively used and that there is always light and shade; time for us to take in what we are being told, and react. He says that it is “undefinable… the most rewarding piece of writing I have read”. I agree – it is all this and more!

Lighting design – creating mood as well as ensuring that we can always see the actor’s face – is by Jack Knowles, and sound by Mark Melville.

The simple set – two stacks of metal shelves with shoe boxes – has been designed by Naomi Kuyck-Cohen, which, of course brings me to what the play is really about… SHOES!

Julie Hesmondhalgh says that she asked her husband to write her a one woman play so that “we could tour it together into our dotage”. I think he has done exactly that.

I sat entranced throughout – so simple (just one actor and one set) yet so much to think about afterwards, and so much fun on the way! Highly recommended!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

A man wakes in the middle of the night to discover that the world has stopped. Through the crack in his bedroom curtains he can see no signs of life at all…other than a light in the house opposite where a woman in an over-sized Bowie T-shirt stands, looking back at him…

The breathtaking Edinburgh Fringe 2018 hit sell-out show stars multi-award winning, BAFTA nominated actress Julie Hesmondhalgh (who won a Stage Award for her performance in Edinburgh).

Greatest Play in the History of the World takes us on a heartfelt journey that starts and ends in a small, unassuming house on a quiet suburban road. Julie narrates this story of two neighbours and the people on their street, as she navigates us through the nuances of life, the possibilities of science and the meaning of love.

Company
Performed by Julie Hesmondhalgh Written by Ian Kershaw
Directed by Raz Shaw Produced by Tara Finney Productions
Designer Naomi Kuyck-Cohen Lighting Designer Jack Knowles
Sound Designer Mark Melville

Listings information
Trafalgar Studios 2, 14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY
26 November 2019 – 4 January 2020 (3pm performance only on 31st December) | 7.45pm

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Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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