On Thursday 13th February, I attended opening night of the show ‘The Visit’ at the National Theatre.  Adapted by Tony Kushner, ‘The Visit’ tells the story of the richest woman in the world, (Claire Zachanassian), who returns late in life to her impoverished hometown with the sole goal of seeking revenge on her former lover, offering to give the town $1 billion in exchange for his death.  Despite being the only gawky sixteen year old in an audience of adults, I grew to see beauty in the show‘s ability to challenge and engage the mind in a way which made the audience themselves question their morals.

Without doubt, one of the most impressive aspects of the show was the characterisation of the actors.  This manifested itself most clearly in the carefully-considered gait of each character. The most obvious example of this was Clare Zachanassian herself, who, despite her walking stick, radiated status and power in every step she took.  This, I observed, was largely achieved by the slow pace of her steps, which helped to give the impression that she would accommodate for no one; everyone else must instead accommodate and wait for her. 

The strength of this leading lady, in fact, brought to light yet another reason why this production was so stimulating; it utterly shattered this stereotype that women are weak. The play’s ending, for instance, was not cliché, as I worried it would be.  While Zachanassian did develop stronger morals as time went on, her vicious quest for revenge was not ultimately swayed as she came to re-fall in love with her former lover, with her remaining ruthlessly set on achieving her goal. Therefore, the surprising and original end to the play definitely owed to my admiration for Zachanassian on account of her steadfast nature and strive for justice.  

The play was also important in breaking the stigma surrounding females and sex.  This was done using countless moments of sexual humour, the most notable example being when Leslie Manville acted as a cat, leaving the audience to laugh awkwardly in the silence that followed.  In a matter of hours, therefore, ‘The Visit’ was able to tackle the stigma of females talking about sex, and therefore the production’s power to address the pressing issues of our time was quite inspiring.

But what made the show most enchanting was the question of morals which it brought into play.  I noticed that aspects of the practitioner Bertolt Brecht’s influence were present in the show: I found myself asking what I would do in the clash between morals and money; would I vote for the death of this local man, or to gain $1 billion for my town?  Ultimately, there was something very chilling about ‘The Visit’ display of our society’s obsession with money and consumerism, and this motivated me to go out into the world and combat materialistic wealth with the wealth of kindness.  This, above all else, is why I would recommend ‘The Visit’ at the National Theatre. 

Allie Gruber