Reviews Round-up: Dear Octopus 3.7★

National Theatre (Lyttelton)

Lindsay Duncan in Dear Octopus.Photo: March Brenner

After many years of neglect, Dodie Smith‘s 1938 play Dear Octopus gets a revival at the National Theatre. The critics were charmed by its gentle story of a family through the years but some found it unexciting.

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

Kate Kellaway in The Observer (4★) called it ‘a tip-top, fastidious, perfectly pitched production’. The Guardian‘s Kate Wyver (4★) thought it a ‘glorious revival’. Dave Fargnoli in The Stage (4 ★) described it as ‘a touching celebration of enduring love, family and forgiveness.’ Marianka Swain of The Daily Telegraph (4★) found the ‘sensitive revival’ ‘poignant, exquisitely performed theatre’. Although Tim Bano in The Independent (4★) thinks it’s ‘a slightly soppy, unfashionable play’, he found it ‘a pretty great pleasure to spend time in the company of this family’. The Financial Times‘ Sarah Hemming (4★) said ‘(director Emily) Burns’ delicately acted staging coaxes you to fall for this fretful, funny bunch and gently draws out the melancholy notes beneath the comedy’. In her Whats On Stage (4★) review, Lucinda Everett said it was ‘moving but never maudlin’. Paul T Davis at (4★) liked ‘the sublime script and performances’. Maryam Philpott at The Reviews Hub thought the play ‘sprightly, beautifully observed and full of hope’. Cindy Marcolina at Broadway World (3★) quite liked what she called ‘a gold mine of dry humour and psychological fun’.

Less enthusiastic was Clive Davis in The Times (3★): ‘some of the dialogue is showing its age’ and ‘sometimes you long for a little more pace and levity.’ Caroline McGinn in Time Out (3★) said it was ‘a pleasant revival and the Evening Standard‘s Nick Curtis (3★) found it ‘incurably quaint and dated’. Adam Bloodworth in City AM (3★) had a similar reaction: ‘Smith’s play feels deeply dated, the overlong first act stuffed with hammy..banter’.

They loved Lindsay Duncan. The Guardian said she gave ‘an imperious performance’. Caiti Grove at (4★) speaks of her ‘very genuine and motherly performance’.

Frankie Bradshaw’s set is praised, with The Telegraph saying the ‘ravishing revolving set is almost another character.’

Dear Octopus was at the National Theatre until 27 March. Buy tickets directly from the theatre.

Average rating: 3.7

Value Rating 53 (Value rating is the Average critic rating divided by the most common Stalls/Circle ticket price. In theory this means the higher the score the better value but, because of price variations, a West End show could be excellent value if it scores above 30 while an off-West End show may need to score above 60. This rating is based on opening night prices- theatres may raise or lower prices during the run.)

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