Wednesday, 7 September 2011
To see a great performance by Ian McKellan at the Theatre Royal Bath, where he is playing Don Antonio in the Chichester production of The Syndicate. Eduardo de Filipo's play is set in and around Naples in 1960, where the Don is in his twilight years and playing a cross between Solomon and Robin Hood to the locals and their problems. With a strong cast of twenty, including Michael Pennington as the loyal Doctor Fabio and Cherie Lunghi as the godfather's wife Donna Armida, the whole production has a lot going for it, helped by a splendid set. But, despite the great performances - and some nice comic touches as the Don hoodwinks the local loan shark - the whole play feels like a lot less than the sum of its players. A stronger first part is followed by a gradually weakening storyline and a mightily clumsy final act that leaves one simply puzzled, and asking what it was all about? The capacity audience at Bath lapped up the strong performances but were left none the wiser about its import.