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Greater London
posted/updated: 22 Jan 2020 -
The Sunset Limited
By Cormac McCarthy. A Boulevard Theatre Production
society/company: West End & Fringe (directory)
performance date: 21 Jan 2020
venue: Boulevard Theatre, 6 Walker's Court, Soho, London W1F 0BT
reviewer/s: Chris Abbott (Sardines review)

Gary Beadle and Jasper Britton in The Sunset Limited. Photo: Marc Brenner


It’s always good to welcome a new theatre and we have recently greeted quite a few, and this was my first visit to the impressive Boulevard Theatre in Soho. It’s an adaptable building with great potential and very welcoming staff, and the second production there was a two-hander which benefitted greatly from being played in this space.

Cormac McCarthy wrote The Sunset Limited, one of only two plays by this novelist, in 2006. It’s 95 minutes straight through, and shows us the aftermath of the rescue of a suicidal man from a subway platform. The rescuer, Black, is an ex-prisoner with a strong religious faith who is unshakeable in his belief of redemption and hope for all. The person he has saved, and has now brought back to his apartment, is White, a man with no hope, faith or indeed future – at least as far as he is concerned.

It all sounds like quite a bleak setup, but it is a mark of McCarthy’s ability with dialogue and the sure-footed direction from Terry Johnson that, at least for much of the time, this is a gripping, often amusing and sometimes touching piece. Gary Beadle gives a commanding performance as Black, always ready to tell one of his stories in the hope that, parable-like, they will show the way to his visitor. Jasper Britton is quietly effective in perhaps the more difficult role as the whining and miserable White, and he gradually wins at least a little sympathy for the situation he finds himself in.

The central conflict revolves around whether or not White will try again to commit suicide, and the ending is perhaps the weakest point of McCarthy’s script, which would also be more effective if shortened to around an hour. However, it is never less than watchable and this is an excellent match of play and venue. The effective design from Tim Shortall is brought to life by John Leonard’s subtle but powerful soundscape, and The Sunset Limited offers the opportunity to see excellent acting in a good production of a little-known play, and in a comfortable and welcoming new venue. What’s not to like?

Gary Beadle and Jasper Britton in The Sunset Limited. Photo: Marc Brenner

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