Hymn at the Almeida Theatre Online
Originally planned to have its live premiere on stage, Lolita Chakrabarti’s Hymn instead makes its debut as a live stream from the empty Almeida Theatre. This fantastic play is bursting with energy, and shows quite clearly that theatre can be done extraordinarily well, despite all lockdown restrictions. With a fantastic cast, brilliant writing and some wonderful musical numbers, it’s a spectacular two-hander about family ties and the beauty of brotherhood.
It’s surprising that a show so full of life should begin with a funeral scene: Gil (Adrian Lester) gives a passionate speech about his recently deceased father, before Benny (Danny Sapani) approaches him with to divulge that Gil’s father secretly had an affair with Benny’s mother, and that they could be brothers. Following this revelation, the play explores the brothers’ relationship as it develops, how they share their personal troubles, hopes and aspirations, but also how wildly different their upbringings were, with Gil enjoying a comparatively privileged life and Benny struggling to get by.
The overall pacing works extremely well, and with highly realistic, fiery prose it’s engaging to watch. Lester and Sapani are stellar and instantly compelling; from the first minute onwards, one can’t help but be swept away by their heart-wrenching performances, both in the dialogue and in the music and dance scenes. It is a production that touches upon an impressive range of emotions, all of which are enacted believably and brought to a satisfying conclusion after the 90 minutes of runtime.
Blanche McIntyre’s directing is equally powerful, if understated. With a minimalistic set design (featuring just a piano, a few boxes and some atmospheric lighting by Prema Mehta), the focus shifts onto the acting, and the live transmission works extremely well, with lovely camera angles and audio. It simply all comes together in a neat, magical package.
Hymn proves that the lockdown doesn’t have to mean it isn’t possible to have good, traditional theatre that is just as enjoyable as physically going to a venue. From start to finish, this is an absolute joy to watch and well worth every single penny; an absolute must-see, all the way.
Hymn is available to livestream from 19th February until 21st February 2021. For further information or to book visit the Almeida Theatre’s website here.