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Timon of Athens (2012)

National Theatre Live: Timon of Athens (original title)
Timon of Athens is a play unique to Shakespeare as it offers a central character without family or partner; the story of a rich and liberal Athenian whose generosity is exploited until he learns the full extent of man's greed.


Nicholas Hytner




Credited cast:
Simon Russell Beale ... Timon
Paul Bentall Paul Bentall ... Lucullus
Charlie Blackwood ... Ensemble
Martin Chamberlain Martin Chamberlain ... Varro
Stavros Demetraki ... Lucilius
Jo Dockery Jo Dockery
Tyson Douglas Tyson Douglas ... Ensemble
Alfred Enoch ... Philotus (as Alfie Enoch)
Matt Jessup ... Ensemble
Hilton McRae Hilton McRae ... Apemantus
Nick Sampson Nick Sampson ... Poet
Michael Sheldon ... Isidore


Timon of Athens is a play unique to Shakespeare as it offers a central character without family or partner; the story of a rich and liberal Athenian whose generosity is exploited until he learns the full extent of man's greed.

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"Like madness is the glory of this life"
19 October 2019 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

'Timon of Athens' is a long way from being one of Shakespeare's best plays, to me like many it seems it is something of a lesser work. Some great lines, some powerful scenes and a very interesting (if not likeable) titular character, but on the odd side structurally, not always riveting dramatically and in some way there is an incomplete working-draft feel (which is what it essentially was). It still interests and lesser Shakespeare, as cliched as this sounds, is a lot better than most things.

One of the early National Theatre Live transmissions and the fifth Shakespeare one, this 'Timon of Athens' is as good a production of this lesser-known play as one is going to get. It is really quite great and much better than Nicholas Hytner's previous Shakespeare production of the National Theatre Live series 'Hamlet', much more appealing visually and there aren't any staging misjudgments that perplexed rather than intrigued.

Did think though that the first act is done with a lot more of vitality which is not always there in the second. This is not the production's fault though entirely, as it is a fault of the play itself as well. Reminds me of the National Theatre Live production of 'All's Well that Ends Well', which didn't overcome the play's problem of Bertram's conversion being too rushed and abrupt.

However, it is a visually striking production that doesn't try to do anything too complicated and elaborate, nor does it become cheap. Loved the first act's stylishness and then the more desolate look of the second perfectly fits Timon's state of mind and change of fortune. Was very unsure as to whether the concept of the modern-day world-wide financial crisis would work, thinking initially before watching what's the point and what was it that was intended, but it is very intelligently done and is not at odds with the play's themes.

Nicholas Hytner's stage direction is dramatically very involving in the first act particularly and doesn't have anything that comes over as questionable. It is not self-indulgant, cluttered or stagy, and succeeds in making the comedy funny and never too broad (thank goodness Poet and Painter are not over-played, a danger with those roles) and the drama poignant, unbearably so at times in Act 2.

Simon Russell Beale is somebody who does Shakespeare extremely well, love his Falstaff for example in 'The Hollow Crown' series. Timon is a different role far removed from that, and Beale does a wonderful job, the generosity and later bitterness both brought out with equal intensity, vigour and pathos. The rest of the cast are very good if not quite on Beale's level, the standout being Hilton McRae's steely Apemantus.

Overall, great production of one of Shakespeare's lesser plays. 9/10

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Release Date:

1 November 2012 (UK) See more »

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Timon of Athens See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK


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