Reviews Round-up: Keeley Hawes in The Human Body 3.1★

Donmar Warehouse

Keeley Hawes and Jack Davenport in The Human Body. Photo: Marc Brenner

The Human Body is Lucy Kirkwood’s latest play following such successes as The Witches, The Children, Mosquitoes and Chimerica. Starring Keeley Hawes and Jack Davenport, both returning to the stage after a long gap, it tells the story of the birth of the NHS at a local level, wrapped up in a Brief Encounter-style romance. Directors Michael Longhurst and Ann Yee incorporate film into the production, which didn’t please everybody. The two stars were universally loved by the critics but some found the play unfocussed.

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls, and therefore may not be accessible]

Arifa Akbar in The Guardian (3★) wasn’t keen on the use of film but thought ‘Kirkwood’s script crackles with unspoken desires, disappointments, yearning and some fantastic humour’. Nick Curtis in the Evening Standard (3★) describes the production as ‘engrossing but meandering’, however ‘Davenport is very funny in it and Hawes is superb.’ The Stage‘s Sam Marlowe (3★) agreed calling the play ‘disjointed’ but saying it was ‘beautifully acted’. For Time Out‘s Andrzej Lukowski (3★) too, ‘the cast sells it’. Otherwise he is lukewarm in his praise of ‘a heartfelt but old-fashioned drama’. Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph (3★) felt it ‘urgently needs a scalpel to cut back excess flab’ but concurs with the general opinion that ‘There’s no faulting the leads’. Tim Bano in The Independent (3★) agreed about the acting (‘Hawes dazzles’) and about the need for some cutting, saying the play was a ‘fabulously rich piece of writing’ but ‘bogged down by an overstuffed production’.

Not even the acting saved the evening for Clive Davis in The Times (2★). Calling it a ‘sub-standard play’, he asks: ‘Is it a staid, semi-documentary celebration…Or is it a clever-clever meta-romance?’ before concluding ‘It fails on both counts.’

Lucy Kirkwood can take comfort from Sarah Crompton at WhatsOnStage (4★) who was forgiving of any flaws: ‘Kirkwood is such a wonderful writer and Longhurst…and Yee such confident, fluent co-directors that the occasional bagginess doesn’t matter.’ She too loved the acting: ‘The performances are a joy.’ It pressed all the right buttons for Cindy Marcolina at Broadway World (4★). She thought it was ‘a gripping comic drama’ and liked how a ‘deft use of camera feeds combines with a genre-hopping and tone-shifting chameleonic script to make The Human Body a feat of movement direction.’ She concluded: ‘this is a show to see.’

The Human Body is at Donmar Warehouse, London, until 13 April. Click here to buy tickets directly from the theatre.

Critics’ Average Rating 3.1★

Value Rating 52 (Value rating is achieved by dividing the Average review rating by the top price excluding premium prices)

Click here to read Paul Seven Lewis’s review

If you’ve seen The Human Body, you are welcome to add your review and rating below (but please keep it relevant and polite)