Review: All New People, Duke of York’s

I wish I had spent the time watching this play doing something else. I went to see it without knowing anything about it and with no expectations but I was the first to shoot out of the theatre as soon as it finished. In fact, if there had been an interval, I would have left a lot earlier.

In fairness, the opening scene is clever and lures you into thinking that there is more promising stuff to come but alas. It’s a story about a 35 year old Charlie (played by Zach Braff) whose attempt to commit suicide in a Long Beach Island house is thwarted by the arrival of a trio of characters. First amongst these is a hysterical British estate agent, Emma, who walks in just at the crucial time. After a frenetic and histrionic burst, she decides to call her friend, fireman and drug dealer, Myron who joins in . Last to join the party is ‘escort’ Kim who has been sent by a friend to cheer Charlie up. How these four characters have ended up in this house on this given day is just as implausible as the rest of the play.

For most of the play, the three visitors drink copious amounts of alcohol, snort coke and trade insults and jokes at each other while Braff’s Charlie is in the background ostensibly trying to portray emotion but ending up looking blank. The jokes are contrite and, for the most part, look like they have been stitched on for cheap laughs. The feeble joke about ‘Is Ganesha the one with multiple arms?’ is a case in point. It’s also a play that wears its politics on its sleeves so expect the usual banker bashing and the portrayal of Americans as being a bit ‘thick’ when it comes to foreign affairs. Perhaps Braff forgot the Eliot Spitzer revelations when he wrote this play. The two women characters in this play are treated with a degree of condescension – they are both ditzy women designed to create laughter at their own expense. One of the conversations led by Kim resembled something I’ve heard in a Sex and the City episode. Very original, then.

The play uses 4 mini films projected onto a screen in front of the set to give us more information of all the four characters. Some may argue that it might have been better to have let the characters act these out on the stage but I welcomed these interludes if only to break the tedium I was witnessing on stage. For me, the only redeeming factor in this play is Susannah Fielding’s performance as Kim. As unfortunate as Kim is portrayed, Fielding’s Kim is funny without going over the board and her comic timing is spot on. Interestingly the play’s only poignant line is uttered by Kim towards the end but because it gets lost in the implausible farce that precedes it, it only invokes a weak laughter from the audience.

Within 45 minutes, I lost the desire to find out why Charlie attempted suicide. I was past caring. And when we found out why via one of the mini films, I was flabbergasted. All in all, it’s a confounding play that lacks credibility. Judging from the audience last night, I am sure it will continue to attract large numbers of Zach Braff’s fans. But if you are not one, then my advice would be to give this a miss.

★★☆☆☆
Until 28 April 2012.
Written by Zach Braff.
Directed by Peter DuBois.
Performance time is approximately 100 minutes with no interval.
http://duke-of-yorks.official-theatre.co.uk/

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About manipillai

Oh, just a few of my thoughts on theatre.
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