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Posts Tagged ‘Sophie Russell’

Walking into the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs is like entering a pink boudoir, or maybe a wedding marquee. Carpeted, fabric hanging from the ceiling, seats covered. The audience are on three sides, the fourth is a platform on which sit two stools either side of a small table.

Jess and Jimmy have been together for nine years but have not had sex for fourteen months. It appears they are here to do it at last; there is a mattress of sorts in front of them, with two pillows. The dialogue concerns their past experiences and their current predicament. Sometimes, one of them gives a monologue the other is not supposed the hear. They are as aware of us as we are of them, though its not clear what our role is. Is this therapy? It’s often funny, sometimes intriguing, and passes a not unpleasant 70 mins, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and I’m not sure what the point of it is.

Sophie Russell and Jonjo O’Neill are very likeable and delightfully cheeky. When you laugh it tends to be with them, as if you’re complicit or involved in some way. Fly Davies’ quirky design makes you smile too. Playwright Anthony Neilson also directs; maybe he shouldn’t have – second opinions are often useful.

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I’m struggling to understand why the Royal Court thought this was good enough to be staged there (mind you, it isn’t the first time I’ve thought that in recent years). Four very good actors in a very mediocre play.

Rory Mullarkey’s tale of armed insurrection in the UK starts with a meeting between a black boy and a posh woman on a deserted train platform. He appears to be some sort of Messiah and he’s not unexpected. Catherine, a Lady in the titled sense, invites him home. It isn’t for sex, as Leo at first thinks. She’s going to engineer his journey to power through uprisings of the most unlikeliest of groups like the Women’s Institute. It starts with a couple of murders and follows it’s absurdist trajectory from there to a new Britain.

Given the number of (short) scenes and locations, it is by necessity staged on a simple square platform with a projection screen behind and a couple of tents on either side, but Tom Pye’s design still seems a bit half-hearted, as did James Macdonald’s direction. Anna Chancellor is excellent, but why she took the role is beyond me. I was very impressed by Calvin Demba as Leo, who maintains his naive otherworldly expression throughout. Sophie Russell and Pearce Quigley provide excellent support in multiple roles, with some quick changes.

Maybe I’m missing something, but this all seemed a bit pointless. More like work-in-progress than a finished play. It was occasionally funny and often unpredictable but rather unengaging.

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