by Anya Reiss.

Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square To 21 August.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 4pm.
Captioned 12 Aug.
then Unit 215 Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre (1st Floor, opposite Café Nova SE1 6TE 25-28 August 2010.
Wed-Sat 7pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.

TICKETS: 029 7505 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 July.

The younger the characters, the more they convince.
For all her signs of playwriting skill, it’s less than certain the Court has done Anya Reiss an artistic service by giving this play she wrote at 17 a main place in the repertoire. There’s some sharp dialogue, and in a piece where half the characters are around 12 years old the handling of the young characters – especially Delilah, daughter in the house where the action’s set – is expert. Even allowing for the skill of Shannon Tarbet’s performance and those playing her friends, it remains impressive.

It’s also part of the Royal Court’s recent remit to explore the middle-classes. Here father Nick has had an affair with his boss that’s ended in being sacked, leaving financial and emotional devastation, and taking in student lodger Daniel.

It’s with the adult characters the play stumbles. Having Delilah effectively seduce Daniel, the play shows little more than his repeated alternation of snogging and expressions of guilt, along with the teasing matter of whether someone will tell, or find out (there are enough near-miss sightings to stock a decent farce).

If Daniel has little presence as a character, most of it implied by James McArdle’s performance, his girlfriend Leonie, who comes to stay, has no existence other than to stand in contrast to, and be insulted by, the jealous Delilah.

But this isn’t the first play to have undeveloped, or merely functional, characters. It’s mainly limited by the parents, who are seen from the outside. Neither Jeremy Herrin’s skilful production, nor the acting of Kevin Doyle and Sharon Small, can disguise the externality of a pair whose bickering starts within seconds of their arrival, over the small matter of the offer of tea as opposed to coffee.

Of course, major rows grow from little things. But the quarrels continue without developing characters, until Reiss decides to let us know they really love each other. Again, Nick’s economies mean no heating, but as they watch a DVD shivering under blankets (he braves it in shirtsleeves), the script doesn’t develop the situation, restlessly moving on. As, doubtless, will Reiss’s work when her adults match her pre-teens.

Delilah: Shannon Tarbet.
Naomi: Rosie Day.
Emma M: Jordan Loughran.
Emma G: Yasmin Paige.
Daniel: James McArdle.
Nick: Kevin Doyle.
Vicky: Sharon Small.
Leoni: Aisling Loftus.

Director: Jeremy Herrin.
Designer: Max Jones.
Lighting: Malcolm Rippeth.
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Monique Sterling.

2010-07-29 13:06:18

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