WORTH A LOOK?: **1/2
WHERE? Dorfman Theatre, National RUNTIME: 110 minutes without interval
WHEN? 26/10 (matinee), press night 30/10, runs to 23/11/19
We’re at this preview of Annie Baker’s new play set in what appears to be a present-day US writers’ room because it has a mouthwatering ensemble cast.
- Read on for reasons including how we’d find this a difficult play to recommend
However, the shortcomings of deciding to choose a play on the basis of who is in it rather than who has written it become all too clear for us during this one-act piece of theatre which, despite its talented cast, struggles to give us anyone to sympathise with.
Author Baker won a Pulitzer for 2014’s The Flick and The Antipodes takes place in a boardroom as Conleth Hill’s (Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Harold Pinter Theatre) Sandy warns his disparate group: ‘No dwarves or elves or trolls’ as he encourages them to first tell stories about themselves.
How you lost your virginity is the first topic and the loathsomeness of Arthur Darvill’s (Sweet Charity, Donmar) character becomes clear as, shoes off, he places his socked feet on to the table as the never-ending brainstorming continues.
Sinead Matthews (Loot, Park Theatre) is the only woman at the table and if the (female) author’s point is that the piece is missing feminine input it is one that is well made, if frustratingly, here.
monstagigz is a big fan of Fisayo Akinade’s (pictured top above, Barber Shop Chronicles, Dorfman) and we would have liked for him to have more to do than he does here. Hadley Fraser similarly was better served as the lead in Young Frankenstein at the Garrick for us. Imogen Doel was good value however as Sandy’s imaginative and aspirational assistant.
Bill Milner (Harold And Maude, Charing Cross Theatre) is silent for much of the piece as Sandy’s note-taking assistant but does finally get a moment to shine.
Like Lungs currently playing at the Old Vic, time shifts repeatedly mid-scene and we’re only seeing the important bits that the writer wants us to and the occasional moment, when the group can only hear intermittently the voice of their boss as the technology being used is frustratingly imperfect for example, hits home.
Ultimately, as Sandy spends more time away from the group, their paranoia becomes as outrageous as the worsening weather outside.
Very little happens plot-wise and the point of this all remains unfathomably unclear. The Antipodes means opposite and we wondered whether this was an attempt to convey the pointless competitiveness of the passive aggression of the writers’ room. Is this the author giving us her version of the least likely way to tell a story convincingly?
We’re still not sure and would find this a difficult play to recommend.