Thursday, 14 July 2016

Review: Unreachable at the Royal Court

Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs)
Reviewed on Wednesday 13th July 2016

Matt Smith returns to the London stage after his stint as 'American Psycho' Patrick Bateman at the Almedia in 2013, to play an alter together kind of anti-hero.

This is Unreachable, and Smith is a director searching for the "perfect light" to complete the filming of his apocalyptic drama Child of Ashes. Loyal producer Anastasia (Amanda Drew) and long suffering DOP Carl (Richard Pyros) are left to pick up the pieces as shoot delays, wayward cast members and extravagant set pieces threaten the life of the cinematic extravaganza.

Written and directed by Anthony Neilson, this entire play was created in the rehearsal room - from scratch. No previous script. Just a title and a simple plot line. It's a testament to the actors that the production we saw felt slick and well rehearsed - despite the constant onstage corpsing (which was lapped up for the hysterical audience). In fact, it's the actor's ability to play around on stage that welcomes the audience in immediately; we feel a part of the story.

Smith is particularly playful, making his neurotic, hypochondriac Maxim a lovable delight. There's also strong work from Amanda Drew who absolutely rocks the monochrome look alongside Genevieve Barr, who brings a deadpan wit to production "spy" Eva. Nice also is Tamara Lawrance as a brash, uncaring and confident lead actress, who gives Maxim the runaround constantly throughout the show. The biggest laughs come after the arrival of Jonjo O'Neill as the wayward, unpredictable Ivan - an actor who's been blacklisted in the industry for being completely unworkable. His fourth-wall breaking entrance revs the production up, but ultimately steers it veering dangerously into pantomime territory.

Unreachable is certainly a heck of a lot of fun - you won't find a cast having this much joy on stage anywhere else in London currently, but you might be asking yourself at what expense? The audience guffawed through act two with such ferociousness, at one point I thought the woman next to me was going to choke on her gin and tonic. It's the sort of play that couldn't have a life anywhere other than the Royal Court, and it's certainly worth grabbing a ticket, but as the bewilderingly OTT finale finishes its last beat, you'll be left with an unreachable feeling of your own - was that my cup of tea?

Reviewed by Oliver Dowdeswell

Unreachable runs at the Royal Court until 6th August 2016.
Please visit for further information.

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