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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Theatre - Becky Shaw - Almeida Theatre

Star rating – 9/10

Gina Gionfriddo’s ‘Becky Shaw’ won both awards and critical acclaim when it premiered on Broadway, but that does not always guarantee a successful transfer to these shores. Happily, the new production directed by Peter DuBois at the Almeida is an absolute triumph. It is the story of the relationships between Suzanna and her newly wed husband Andrew; and her sort of but not really brother Max, who was taken in by her parents and has become very close to her.

Andrew works with a new office temp called Becky, who is a bit down on her luck, and consequently is set up on a blind date with Max. But the evening does not go smoothly to say the least. And the relationships between the main characters are not all they seem. This is a witty, insightful, black comedy with very smart dialogue. It deals with manipulation within relationships, and the tyranny of the weak, in the shape of Becky, who comes to have a greater influence over the lives of Max, Suzanna and Andrew than they could ever have imagined. There is no great moral message here – things are not black and white in these particular repationships at all – but it is a very intelligent play, which is also extremely and acerbically funny.

David Wilson Barnes as Max gives a particularly sparkling performance, as he reprises the role he plays in the States. His clever put downs and whip smart one liners are fantastic, as he tries to dodge all emotional attachments, except that is, with Suzanna. He is the only American actor in the five strong cast, and it is worth noting that the accents of the four British cast members were faultless throughout – a detail that when not spot on can really disrupt the illusion of theatre.

Haydn Gwynne is great as Suzanna’s dry and caustic mother, and Anna Massey as Suzanna, and Daisy Haggard as Becky are also impressive. This is a joy of a play - clever, funny and thought provoking. Another winner for the Almeida.

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