Thursday, 20 January 2011

Becky Shaw Review

Becky Shaw by Gina Gionfriddo
Almeida Theatre N1

Male Fraud

Beep, beep! At last, a new(ish) play in preview that zips along almost as fast as TLT's souped-up chariot! And there is something prescient about this 2008 American piece where the tables are turned on money manager Max (David Wilson Barnes) whose descent starts with a blind date with the eponymous heroine. Or is heroine the right word in an ensemble piece directed by Peter DuBois where Daisy Haggard's Becky Shaw (inspired by Vanity Fair's Becky Sharp) only appears half way through the first act? It's clever and sassy and the acting's good too. While there's a dysfunctional family - Mum Susan (Hayden Gwynne), daughter Suzanna (Anna Madeley) and writer-husband Andrew (Vincent Montuel), the play also metamorphosises into a gangster tale and deconstruction of a TV-shaped society. A play where all the characters, rather than attaining full three-dimensionality, continually try to push, nay force, their version of "real life" and its script on to others and in the end - but hell, TLT mustn't publish spoilers. Maybe the repartee and plot sometimes feel a trifle over-egged, but on the whole it satisfies as a darkly funny and contemporary play in a way that Clybourne Park didn't do for us. From hotel bedroom through Rhode Island boho apartment and then via Starbucks cafe to a widow's luxury pad, the set design, lighting and sound are equally smooth and satisfying. A slick zingy script had the audience laughing. The plot speeds along from the moment we find Suzanna lying in bed, watching a true crime TV programme dressed in black to mourn her father (maybe a clue: how many people actually dress in mourning black except in plays or on TV?) A blurred amber/green light for an enjoyable evening.

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