THE SAME DEEP WATER AS ME
by Nick Payne.
Donmar Warehouse 41 Earlham Street WC2H 9LX To 28 September 2013.
Mon–Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7624.
Review: William Russell 7 August.
A play for today.
After the time-shifting, verbally dazzling Constellations, which juggled ideas, Nick Payne’s new play is a surprise; a straightforward comedy about a firm of lawyers who deal in no-win, no-fee cases. It is also a stinging assault on compensation culture.
The first act takes place in the offices of lawyers Andrew (Daniel Mays, in fine form) and Barry (Nigel Lindsay, a perfect foil) – who operate under the inspired business name of Scorpion Claims. Andrew is a wide-boy, glib and susceptible, Barry, the senior partner, a man with moral standards in a profession that is often anything but moral. He knows the claims can be disreputable but he does not lie, just ignores things.
Andrew is approached by old school chum, Kevin (Marc Wooton, white-van man to perfection, appalling leisure wear and tattoos on the calf) who has realised money can be made from false claims for injuries because large corporations invariably settle out of court.
He has also discovered one does not even need to have the accident. There are people who stage them – something like a collision between a car and a lorry belonging to Tesco or Sainsbury – and “sell” the result to the highest bidder. If the case does not go to court nobody knows it is a scam. Andrew and Kevin set about making such claims until the awful day one firm decides to fight the claim.
Payne has a gift for one-liners and a good ear for the affluent working-turned-lower-middle classes talk. The result is a thoroughly satisfying evening directed well by John Crowley and impeccably performed.
The court-room scene is hilarious. There are nice turns from Peter Forbes as the judge bemused by Kevin’s endless effing and Monica Dolan as the prosecuting council, posh to her fingertips and her latte.
Payne has a problem ending the play – his solution stems from the plot, but is weak compared what has gone before. Much of the laughter in the play stems from things that are no laughing matter, but he needs to find a killer last-line. But it is a tiny flaw in a rewarding play for today.
Andrew Eagleman: Daniel Mays.
Barry Paterson: Nigel Lindsay.
Kevin Needleman: Marc Wotton.
Anne/ Georgina: Monica Dolan.
Guy/Judge: Peter Forbes.
Terri/Attendant: Joanna Griffin.
Jennifer Needleman: Niky Wardlet.
Isabella Reynolds: Isabella Laughland.
Telephone voices: Linda Bassett, Jonathan Cullen, Kenneth Cranham.
Director: John Crowley.
Designer: Scott Pask.
Lighting: Peter Mumford.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.