by Suhayla El-Bushra after Nikolai Erdman.
The Lyttleton, The National Theatre, to 25 06
Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX to 25 June 2016.
7.30pm 26 April; 4,5,6,7,11,12,13,14,20,21,23,24,25 May; 10, 11,13,14,15,22,24,25 June.
Mat 2.15pm 7, 12, 14, 21, 24 May; 11,15,23,25 June.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7452 3000
Review: William Russell 23 April.
Fairly funny farce that misses more sitting ducks than it hits
The source for this play is Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide which satirised life in Stalin’s Russia and was banned. Nobody is going to ban this pretty toothless but quite jolly romp. Instead of the evils of Communism Suhayla El-Bushra takes on the damage the social media is doing as people jump on bandwagons for their own ends.
Layabout Sam Desai, nicely done by Javonne Prince, wakes up in bed one morning in the high rise flat he and his hard working wife Maya share with her lecherous mother Sarah, a stunning creation by Ashley McGuire, the sort of woman who will get off with any man as long as he is actually breathing. Sam is in a bad mood, storms out and on the roof of the block announces to the world he is going to end it all. Down below are the inevitable kids with phones and Sam goes viral, at which point the world at large joins in, everyone intent on getting something out of sharing his celebrity for themselves.
The sharpest it gets is to make the crooked local politician seeking re-election who wants to blame it all on the failure of the system which he will remedy while redeveloping Clement Atlee Tower as luxury flats, a dead ringer for a certain Asian currently seeking to become London’s mayor. But the targets are too easy.
Margaret Thatcher is dragged in – her image is tattooed on the stomach of the Trustafarian chancer with the video camera intent on making a documentary – with a deadening inevitability. She really is dead and gone and others have done terrible things since.
A posh boy would have made better satirical sense. As it is the posh are represented by a ludicrous woman running a smart café serving inedible food and Britain’s got talent by a white rapper with no talent.
They all want Sam to kill himself and after a dream sequence in hell, which makes no sense, he seems to oblige and we get his funeral on stage. Trouble is he hasn’t obliged. What is in the coffin is one of those things not explained. The play has more to say, however, Sam more to do, so that is not a plot spoiler. But while Ms El-Bushra is given an admirable chance to spread her wings by Rufus Norris’ New Work Department the result suggests sit com is her metier, not social satire, rather a slightly grubbier Birds of a Feather perhaps. It does no service to the play that inspired it. The whole thing needed more work before being put on stage.
Sam Desai: Javonne Prince.
Maya: Rebecca Scroggs.
Sarah: Ashley McGuire.
Igor: Tom Robertson.
Hajji: Sule Rimi.
Min: Pooky Quesnel.
Cleo: Ayesha Antoine.
Erica: Lisa Jackson.
Shanice: Chloe Hesar.
Demetri: Nathan Clarke.
Gil: Michael Karim.
Patrick: Paul Kaye.
Ava: Lizzie Winkler.
Councillor Brian Dawes: Pal Aron.
Isaam: Adrian Richards.
Ensemble: Marcus Adolphy; Elixabeth Hill; Valentine Olukoga;
Roxanne Palmer: Joseph Prouse.
Drummer: Sam Jones.
TV presenters: Gunnar Cauthery; Antonia Kinley.
Director: Nadia Fall.
Designer: Ben Stones.
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable.
Video Projection Designer: Andrzej Goulding.
Music: Danilo ‘DJ’ Walde.
Sound Designer: Helen Atkinson.
Choreographers: Delphine Gaborit; Carrie-Anne Ingrouille.
Movement: Clive Mendus.
Fight Director: Kev McCurdy.