(Seen at the afternoon performance on 9th April 2016)
immaculately staged presentation from new Artistic Director Matthew Warchus. Rob
Howell's decrepit flat is a masterpiece, easily allowing the audience to imagine
just where the shed may go... and that's important, as Warchus goes big on the
metaphor, and finds a whole new angle in this piece.
The monkey was left wondering whether we were watching a single person
debating with himself, rather than the overt power-struggle and gamesmanship of
three people who each have everything to gain or lose, depending on the
reactions of the others. If we go down the metaphorical, than the issue of
finding shoes that allow someone to move on, and time to construct something
useful are well-stated, as are the unexpected problems of taking responsibility,
having it taken and the randomness of decisions.
If we are looking at a more realistic interpretation, then of course this is
all about the actors. On stage for most of the time, Timothy Spall (Davies) can
almost be smelled from the rear stalls. Less bewildered than he makes out, also
less willing and more cunning than he seems, he is either a fine character
actor, or spends more time "on the road" than he will admit to. His life is a
mystery, and may ever remain so, to the great benefit of those watching, who
will enjoy dwelling on his existence long after the curtain falls.
Matching him are brothers Daniel Mays (Aston) and George MacKay (Mick).
Mays is fast becoming a monkey favourite, the "abused patient" monologue
is given sympathetic treatment without bathos, and instability comes naturally
as the performance progresses. From failing to mend a plug or buy a jigsaw, to
never quite getting that shed erected, this is a life of small details and even
smaller triumphs, yet never depressed nor dispirited - just surviving after a
MacKay demonstrates his aggressive intelligence and assured delivery of a
particularly difficult piece of "patter-speech" are breathtaking and his menace
utterly convincing. His job is to provide the disruptive elements that keep the
dramatic motor of the piece moving through its gears to thrilling speeds. He
Warchus trusts the text when setting the actors pace. It quickens and falls
away, quickening again as tensions build - with the confidence to slow again and
take stock before moving forward as required. With his troupe giving it an
ensemble feel even among the very individual performances, they make a somewhat
dated script (the racism in particular being truly 'out of its time') full of
ancient references like 'insurance card' speak to us again - and with a fresh
A hugely competent rendering of a modern classic.