WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Royal Court Theatre
WHEN: 9/4, press night 13/4 runs to 19/5/18
Hari and Max are mourning the loss of their son but have found a novel coping mechanism, they are going to build a flat-pack replacement of him.
- Read on for reasons including how illusions are used to great effect here
Instructions For Correct Assembly is a new play by Thomas Eccleshare which runs for 110 minutes without interval at the Royal Court, the writers’ theatre which premiered The Ferryman which won three Oliviers, including Best New Play, on Sunday.
It stars Mark Bonnar (Hari) and Jane Horrocks (Max) as the parents and Brian Vernel as both son Nick in flashback and replacement battery-powered offspring Jan.
What we liked best about this was the comedy of Vernel’s Jan having his responses modified by remote control operated by his parents.
The cast is rounded out by Jason Barnett, Michele Austin and Shaniqua Okwok who play competitive husband and wife best friends of Hari and Max plus daughter who is enjoying greater academic success than their son.
Great lines include this from competitive mum Laurie (Austin razor sharp in a supporting role): ‘I mean what kind of pressure does it put on a child to be told you’re an actual prodigy? (beat) At architecture. (beat). At 11 years old. I mean how can they know?’
The set is brilliantly inventive and includes two conveyor belts which run the length of the stage and contribute to the sense of factory assembly at the play’s start.
There are also imaginative use of illusions where we only appear to see Vernel’s lifelike head talking without being attached to the rest of his body.
The main characters are both flawed and interesting: Bonnar is an enthusiastic handyman refusing to believe his broken son can’t be fixed, while Horrocks is unwilling to bend in flashback as her son doesn’t grow up as she would wish him to.
What should parents do if their children are not what they hoped for? What would their children be like if they reflected their parents?
Like the best original writing, this left us mulling over the complex issues it raises long after curtain down. It’s also hilariously funny and is the best new play we’ve seen at this prestigious venue so far this year.
We shortlisted Vernel for a Best Theatre Actor monsta in 2015 for his turn in Barbarians at the Young Vic, loved him last year in The Seagull at the Lyric Hammersmith but don’t think we’ve ever seen him funnier and more heartbreaking than here.