A new play about the aging J.S. Bach, with Simon Russell Beale in the title role

Posted on: July 16, 2021

“Few actors could stare down mortality better than Simon Russell Beale in ‘Bach & Sons,’ a problematic new play at the Bridge Theater [in London] that benefits from a piercing central performance,” writes Matt Wolf in Thursday’s (7/15) New York Times. “Telling of the often testy relationship between the composer Johann Sebastian Bach and two of his 20 children, both sons who were musicians as well, the writer Nina Raine has come up with a research-heavy play that could be described as ‘Amadeus’ lite…. Nicholas Hytner’s production boasts an evocative design from Vicki Mortimer, with cascading keyboards hanging above the stage; as in ‘Amadeus,’ the dialogue often cuts off to make way for excerpts from the composer’s output.… Over time, Bach Sr. loses his sight and cedes ground to his son Carl (a vivid Samuel Blenkin), whom the father derides as musically ‘efficient’—a decided slight… A climactic discourse on dissonance reminded me of Georges Seurat’s quest for harmony in the musical ‘Sunday in the Park With George,’ to cite a more moving depiction of the creative process…. Beale commands attention as the aging and worn Bach … The actor cuts against the sentimentality of the writing to catch directly at the heart.”