The Unbuilt City, King’s Head, London, 4****: William Russell



By Keith Bunin.

4 ****

The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington N1 1QN to 30 June 2018.

Tues-Sat 7pm Sun 3pm.

Runs 1hr 20 mins No interval.

TICKETS: 0207 226 8561.

Review: William Russell June 13.


Sandra Dickinson delights

As Claudia, an elderly New Yorker, once rich but now in ill health and very much on her uppers, Sandra Dickinson gives an endearing performance in this two hander by Keith Bunin getting its European premiere at the King’s Head. She is visited by a thirty something man, Jonah, who is representing a mid Western university which wants to buy her legendary collection. Will she sell? Will he charm her? The collection, we slowly discover, is a collection of architectural plans, drawings and models left her by a famous architect she helped promote in the days when she was a rich heiress with a passion for the arts. The city of the title is the scheme he drew up to transform New York into an urban paradise, a dream never realised.

Claudia in Dickinson’s performance is a tough old bird who is not going to be conned by a pretty face as she makes clear early on when she reckons Jonah was sent because he was the kind of young man both she and his boss fancied. Her story, which Jonah, who has brought her a bottle of Rye, gradually wheedles from her, is fascinating and Dickinson strips away the layers beautifully.

It all gets rather less interesting when Jonah in turn reveals his world, which is – he being a gay living in New York – the usual middle year singleton’s angst about the passing show. One has been there before. Lots of times. One rather feels that Claudia would have shown him the door, but then there would have been no play. As it is Jonathan Chambers makes the most of the role and plays off Ms Dickinson perfectly. Director Glen Walford has worked wonders, there is a new seat by designer Erin Green and Claudia’s story is well worth hearing and in Claudia Bunin has created an original and fascinating creature – if only he could have done the same with Jonah. Three stars then for the play, but the fourth is for Ms Dickinson.

Claudia: Sandra Dickinson.

Jonah: Jonathan Chambers.

Director: Glen Walford.

Designer: Erin Green.

Lighting Designer: Tim Deiling.

Sound Designer & Composer: Andrew Avery

Photo: Jonathan Chambers (Jonah) and Sandra Dickinson (Claudia)

PND photography.


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