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Off West End

Closer, Lyric Hammersmith

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Show me! Where is this love? I can’t see it, I can’t touch it, I can’t feel it, I can’t hear it. I can hear some words but I can’t do anything with your easy words. Whatever you say, it’s too late”. 

This sensual, brutal play about love and passion will make you leave the Lyric Hammersmith building with emotions in a mess. It’s an intense, but also an entrancing story, with spirited acting (and great music arrangement + unexpectedly, live songs!).

“Closer” is based on a cult movie from 2004, starring Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, and Jude Law. Full disclosure, I’ve heard about the film but never seen it, so I can base my opinion solely on the stage adaptation.

“Closer”: 4 people, unlimited lust, occasional love

Nina Toussaint-White and Jack Farthing in Closer at the Lyric Hammersmith. Photograph: Marc Brenner

Through this 2-act performance, we follow the stories of 4 individuals who meet, fall in love, fall out of love and intertwine. So it is indeed about love. But not the usual kind that’s portrayed in the movies. Love is brutal in this movie. It’s not pretty. And it becomes an excuse to hurt people. So it’s not your usual rom-com that you could watch on a first date (actually, it is not the best idea to watch this play with someone you’ve just met – it may lead to some awkward conversations).

“Closer” is intense in every scene. Act 1 sets the tone, and in Act 2 you get to immerse yourself in the drama, with raw emotions and dialogues that elevate the play more and more. Because – oh- dialogues. They are the diamond of the play. Dirty, real, and at times funny – they paint the storyline and almost steer your emotions with every line.

It’s not an easy play. As much as you’d wish, it’s difficult to cheer for any of the characters. Each of them is just as flawed. But somehow, I still hoped for a happy ending until the very last minute of the play. Call me naïve, maybe…

The 4 leads

Ella Hunt in Closer at the Lyric Hammersmith. Photograph: Marc Brenner

Alice, portrayed by Ella Hunt, is the central character of the play. She gets to open the show on an incredibly high note (while performing an opening song) and creates a persona that’s both mysterious and sexy. She faces a typical femme fatale scenario, where we know something eventually must go terribly wrong, that’s just how it is. Her boyfriend is Dan (Jack Farthing), a sarcastic, young obituary writer, with a side hobby of trolling and catfishing. Farthing gives a strong performance and shines especially in heavy, emotional scenes. I will remember his breakup scene for a long.

Larry (Sam Troughton) is the strongest character, who shows full competitiveness and full-on emotions in the second act. I loved how he chose the perfect moment to very quietly turn the audience’s sympathy on or against him. His original partner is Anna (Nina Toussaint-White). I feel like Anna is the most demanding role in a way because her character shows the least visible emotions, so she has to use a much more toned performance style compared with the rest of the cast. 

There’s barely any stage design, just a couple of simple tables and chairs, a red curtain, and a large photo. The stage puts the spotlight on the 4 actors, who are on stage, fully exposed, most of the time.

Sam Troughton and Nina Toussaint-White in Closer at the Lyric Hammersmith. Photograph: Marc Brenner

A play of colours

“Closer” is a play that’s very plain-colour based. Since there’s no set, just bare walls, the characters are painted with colours, and so is the script. Accompanying the lights, there’s a live band of 2 on the stage (Arun Ghosh and Radhika Aggarwal), playing an indie score that completes the play and doesn’t overwhelm it.

It’s one of those plays that make you immerse yourself in the story, forget about the world, and then leave the auditorium thinking “phew, I’m glad it hasn’t happened to me”. It takes the worst parts of human emotions, squeezes all the juice from them, and offers you a fancy, theatre bar cocktail.


Closer at Hammersmith Lyric Theatre

Director: Clare Lizzimore

Writer: Patrick Marber


Jack Farthing

Ella Hunt

Nina Toussaint-White

Sam Troughton

Zuzanna Chmielewska

Digital Marketer by profession, published travel book author, avid theatre goer and an amateur Malaysia tour guide in my free time. Find me in one of London's theatres, travelling in Asia or cooking and photographing new recipes in my kitchen. I would try anything once (at least!). My theatre blog:



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