Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, London W1D 6AR 0844 482 5130
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4th December 2021 to 12th February 2022.
CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE. NOT SUITABLE FOR THOSE AGED UNDER 14 OR THE EASILY OFFENDED.
A dinner party in a new home. Jenny thinks it is haunted. Sam does not. Guests Lauren and Ben agree to stay up with them until 2.22am...
The hit Danny Robins play of summer 2021 gets a second run. This time Stephanie Beatriz, Giovanna Fletcher, James Buckley and Elliot Cowan are the ones being directed by Matthew Dunster.
(seen at the Noel Coward Theatre, afternoon performance on 14th August 2021). Some actors have now left the cast.
The monkey is not bothering to waste time calculating when it last saw a brand-new play indoors in a West End Theatre. It is guessing around October 2019. It must, therefore, be careful to separate the “child in a Haribo Factory” feeling from cold, hard, theatrical opinionating.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to.
This is pretty much all you can hope for in a return. Decent play, strong cast, high production standards all round. With 90% of the audience eschewing facemasks, things feel on the slope towards proper normal.
Lily Allen fans (monkey hand up), Ms Allen can act. As in, not just walk and talk at the same time while avoiding crashing into the scenery - but build a character from scratch and make her entirely convincing. The lady can even time a comic line and produce a fan of emotions. Certainly she could draw on her personal life to create strong yet bullied new mother Jenny, but there’s more to her performance than that. No “star casting” vehicle here, this is the real deal.
Julia Chan as friend Lauren is cracked pewter. An NHS mental health professional with a complex emotional life, she provides the erratic contrast needed to power the whole play. Rare in a plot-driven piece, we get new and diverting layers revealed as the impregnable metallic personality splits under her own deftly adjusted pressure.
Partner Ben, the builder who never moved out is wonderful contrast and Jake Wood either was / knows people in the trade to create the person he does. Direct, rooted solidly in the community which Jenny is intent on gentrifying, his tolerances and final explosive summary of cultural collision are delivered in a manner any actor should study for elucidation.
Finally, Hadley Fraser as Jenny’s partner Sam. The university boy who never really fulfilled his potential despite knowing it all. More defensive positions than Rumpole, he is an emotional Fort Knox and with the firepower to keep even his wife at arms-length. The picnic cloth of ideas flap around him, but are anchored by his rock solid weight at the centre. A lesser actor could slip into a cynicism which poisons the whole atmosphere. Fraser instead allows his line to add to the debate.
Writer Danny Robins concocts a haunting tale with humour, drama, caustic commentary on modern life and love and an ending you’ll only say, “oh yes of course” to well after it has happened. Anyone claiming to have figured it out early is lying to themselves. In any case please do not give it away (as the projection at the end reminds us).
Good work from reliable Anna Fleischle creates a wonderful half-completed family home for Matthew Dunster to direct his spooky dinner party. Lucy Carter and Ian Dickinson require praise for lighting and sound both amplifying the emotional effect without audiences being truly aware. A nod too for Chris Fischer’s illusions.
The play itself may not quite pile on the tension like “The Woman In Black” – too many laughs and occasional digressions. On the other hand it has plenty more interesting things to say, and when it does snap right back into thriller mode the fuel to launch the final attack is where it needs to be.
Now we have a working quartet of actors, the monkey can only conclude by raising the possibility the four of them have an annual reunion to present a different play. It would suggest Michael Frayn’s “Benefactors” as a good start. Unless Sam can give as a reason otherwise.
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Tuesday to Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday at 2pm and 6pm
NO MONDAY PERFORMANCES.
Runs 2 hours approximately, including one interval.
NO performances on 24th, 25th, 26th and 31st December 2021.
NO 2.30pm performance on 1st January 2022.
EXTRA performances at 2.30pm on 21st, 23rd, 29th and 30th December 2021.
EXTRA performance at 7.30pm on 27th December 2021.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.