UPDATE: This production is available to watch for free on Instagram until 30/3/20. Details
WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE?: Hampstead Theatre RUNTIME: 85 minutes (no interval)
WHEN?: 22/10, press night 25/10, runs until 24/11/18
There are 2 areas of the programme that include the words: ‘This sealed section contains a spoiler: Please ask a member of staff to open it for you after the play’ and we wouldn’t dream of divulging the twist at the end that throws everything the audience has just seen on its head.
- Read on for reasons including more about the author, the most produced playwright in America in 2017
It’s rare in theatregoing to hear gasps of shock and amazement as well as the eruption of audible sobbing at the climax of work but so it was tonight at what was the 4th preview of San Francisco-based author Lauren Gunderson’s 1st play to make it to these shores.
These are not the only 1sts: both its cast members are making their stage debuts, although 1 you will likely be more familiar with than the other. Maisie Williams plays Arya Stark in Game Of Thrones and Zach Wyatt (remember that name, you’ll doubtless hear a lot more from him in the future) graduated from the Guildhall School Of Music And Drama in June 2018.
Plot-wise Williams plays sick teenager Caroline whose mother lets classmate Anthony into the bedroom she is recuperating in so the pair can collaborate on poetry homework about Walt Whitman. Cue memories of Dead Poets’ Society for audience memories of a certain age and a dissection of his use of pronouns (with multiple meanings) to which the title refers.
The dialogue is authentic American and, like, super of its time (now) with Caroline initially angry with her visitor (at one point she insists she can stop tinkering with her phone but she doesn’t want to) and later sharing loves of jazz and later, hilariously, air piano to Great Balls Of Fire.
Williams is captivating as 1 of the heroines in Thrones but here she proves how well she can act in a role where she is unrecognisable and switching constantly from petulant to playful.
But it is Wyatt who is the revelation. At first he is all twitchy and nervous and, later, as Caroline gets to know him he persuades her that Whitman is relevant to her and his poetry and thoughts about death, rebirth and soul are worth her time.
Gunderson’s 85-minute two-hander is beautifully written and so carefully crafted that when the final reveal comes it make sense but can’t help but surprise and move the audience.
It’s a brilliant introduction to the playwright but also the stage work of 2 fine actors who have glittering futures in the theatre awaiting them and for us to look forward to.