The Quite Marvelous Quartet. From top left clockwise; Vanessa Kirby, Denis Lawson, Phoebe Fox and Lydia Wilson.
I missed seeing Anya Reiss’ debut play, Spur of the Moment last year, but got the script and kicked myself for missing it. When I heard that her second play was coming to The Royal Court, I made sure I wouldn’t miss it. In fact I was there for its premiere performance tonight.
Anya Reiss has much to live up to with her second play, she’s won numerous awards for Spur of the Moment, and so expectations are naturally high for this play.
The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at The Royal Court has undergone a quite amazing transformation for this play and you are literally in the living room this play is in, it’s a brilliant piece of set as you walk down past the other flats into the one the play is set. I love the fact The Royal Court continually is creative with its space, last years boxing ring for Sucker Punch and now this clever set show, that The Royal Court is consistently pushing itself, which is a pleasure to see. The set design is by Paul Wills and he’s to be commended for this brilliant piece of work.
Ok, so it’s got a fancy set but is the content any good? I’ll state it loud and clear, I think this play is better than her first. Anya Reiss showed promise and has developed and delivered on that. This is a play that reveals that age doesn’t always equal maturity and that we all need to as the character Jim says, “Grow up. Life is tough.” Anya Reiss has certainly matured as a playwright.
I loved the humour in the play it sprang naturally from the interaction of the girls with each other and from them with Jim, but Anya Reiss, develops the play to its more serious conclusion subtlety and with great skill. Each character has their flaws as we all do, but also some redeeming feature too (which I hope we all have too). In the character of Dana we get a very astute observation on how some women get into a vicious circle of using men to perpetuate their own self-identity, “I don’t need to learn to ‘love myself’ I need to fucking hate myself I need to fucking divorce myself.” she wryly observes. I admire the way the writing really gets beneath the surface and shows us aspects of characters that perhaps we’ve missed.
The cast of four give excellent performances. I saw their first preview, I’m genuinely impressed, all the important nuances were there and playing this in the round with the audience right up close is never easy, yet they acted brilliantly. It was a pleasure to see Lydia Wilson again, I saw her in Blasted last year at the Lyric Hammersmith, she gave her character of Jessica a real edge that made me not sure whether to agree with her or disagree with her.
Vanessa Kirby as the career climbing and sexual Dana showed us all the sides to the actual despair and spiral her character was on. Phoebe Fox was likewise a witty foil to the other girls as the distraught Ruth. Denis Lawson as Jim was really quite astounding though. His portrayal was witty, cowardly and just right, his character has a big journey in the short time this play is set in and he takes us on that with great aplomb.
I’m greatly encouraged by this play, if Anya Reiss is at the vanguard of what is happening in modern British Theatre we have much to be excited about.