Writer and director, Anthony Neilson, is known in the theatre-world for his uncompromisingly surreal endeavours and, in many ways, Unreachable does not disappoint. His latest offering grapples with the age-old ideas attached to the making of art, coupled with the dangers of the ego and whether an artist can truly ever capture the elusive nature of beauty. By devising the piece during the 6-week rehearsal time-slot, Neilson pulls off a meta-critique of how the process of theatre-making is created. This results in a slightly disjointed play full of real energy as the actors’ corpse into spontaneous laughter at the absurdity of it whilst building a sense of authenticity and a snapshot of life backstage.
Matt Smith, the erstwhile Dr. Who, treads the boards in the mould of the stereotypical egomaniacal film director, Maxim, whose self-righteous characteristics are fluffed up by his producer Anastasia, aptly played by Amanda Drew. The play opens with Maxim demanding the film is shot on film rather than, the prior agreed upon, digital. Smith shows us his capacity to deliver his usual upbeat persona with a gentle sensitivity of playing a spoilt man dealing with the abandonment of his parents. Thus far, a fairly typical plot. The play centres around the making of a post-apocalyptic film, Child of Ashes and Maxim’s desire to film in the perfect light which seems to be alluding him – a metaphor for the strive for perfection in art (as in life) that is always just beyond our grasp. The team on stage seem to be enjoying the, at times, slapstick comedy as much as the audience seems to be enjoying it. In time of political turmoil, the Royal Court has played a brave move by running a show so-far removed from the politics it is so famous for producing yet herein lies its weight and the sexual innuendoes and laugh-out-loud humour lifts the whole theatre’s spirits.
© Tristram Kenton // via thestage.co.uk
The performances are all played to perfection and it is surely well cast. The actress in the film, Natasha, played by recent RADA graduate, Tamara Lawrance, skilfully illustrates her craft as an actor by switching on and off her range of emotions at the prompting of the director; the cinematographer, played by Richard Pyros, convincingly plots against Maxim to takeover his post if the role should become available; the financial backer, played by deaf actor Genevieve Barr, stands as the corporate presence threatening Maxim’s creativity and finally, Jonjo O’Neill, whose outlandish Ivan The Brute detonates upon the stage with his presence. Part German cult actor Klaus Kinski and part Will Ferrell’s outlandish Zoolander character, Mugatu, The Brute provides the upheaval the play needs and showcases the darker elements of human character using Nielson’s trademark surreal direction.
The piece unfolds reassuringly predictably as one would hope from a premise about the escapades of a film production and, at times, feels too familiar. However, the climax of the piece was not the final twist in the plot, which reminisces upon the well-known feud between gun-toting Kinski and his director Werner Herzog in the production of Aguirre, the Wrath of God, but the final, scene-stealing set design of Chloe Lamford. The bare set with its usual cinematic troupes of screens, prop cases and the announcement of acts and scenes by a disembodied director gives way to the most spectacular display of visceral delight and showers the audience with the experience of what theatre is capable of – an evening of story-telling entertainment to lighten the mood and open oneself up to the beauty of art.
It’s Just Gone // © Royal Court Theatre via youtube.com
Unreachable plays until the 6th August at The Royal Court Theatre where tickets start at £10. Box office: 020-7565-5000. Find out more by visiting www.unreachabletheplay.com