THEATRE REVIEW: Eureka Day starring Helen Hunt and Ben Schnetzer at the Old Vic

By Aline Mahrud


WHEN?: Tuesday 6 September 2022, opens 23 September, runs to 31 October 2022 RUNTIME: 120 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)

Eureka Day opens with a headteacher and parent governors in the seemingly liberal titular private US school debating at length the inclusivity of a drop-down menu describing the pupils’ ethnicity.

  • Read on for reasons including our thoughts on Helen Hunt’s London stage debut

The school’s ethos is that change can only be introduced if there is consensus between headteacher and parent governors and 1 describes a Eureka Day child as being the ‘1 who applauds in sports when the other team scores’.

However, this idyllic way of life comes under threat when 1 of the pupils contracts mumps and the thorny topic of compulsory vaccinations and the attitudes it exposes are brought to the surface.

The headteacher and governors decide to set up a CAC (community-activated conversation) and what results as our protagonists sit in 1 room (onstage) in a Zoom call is a conversation that evolves online on a screen we can see above the participants’ heads which exposes the anti-vaxx prejudices of some of the school parents.

It’s the show’s funniest scene but is very difficult for the participants to act and on this 1st preview it is challenging but with practice it will become more accomplished and the audience laughter coinciding with the banality of the thumbs-aloft ‘like’ on screen for example will grow bigger and more engulfing.

The brilliant thing about the star casting of Helen Hunt (a Best Actress Oscar Winner in the 90s for film As Good As It Gets opposite Jack Nicholson) in this is that she’s truly part of the ensemble but she’s given enough room to develop a multi-layered character who has 1 memorable and truly emotional moment towards the end of the play.

We’ve been in love with Ben Schnetzer since he played the lead in our favourite film directed by Old Vic Artistic Director Matthew Warchus (Pride) and here he gives us something completely different proving his acting versatility as 1 of a social media giant’s founders and the unfaithful father of a vulnerable child who manages to invoke the rage of both a fellow parent-governor he is close to and his long suffering partner.

Kirsten Foster is May the parent-governor closest to Schnetzer’s Eli and she neatly expresses her meltdown as it becomes clear her child may be at the centre of the outbreak and how it has damaged her closest relationship.

Mark McKinney as hilarious headteacher Don has appeared on Saturday Night Live and anchors a piece which could well be an extended version of a skit from that superior show.

Rounding out the cast is Susan Kelechi Watson as the new parent joining the board who is determined not to be cowed into submission by the bizarre, seemingly overly touchy-feely circumstance in which she has found herself.

Jonathan Spector’s play is very funny and receives a well-deserved partial standing ovation at this 1st preview.

It was written before Covid-19 and proves prescient in its raising of the debate about the value of vaccinations and the difference between fact and opinion.

It’s to Hunt’s credit that she has chosen to appear in such a thought-provoking and entertaining play and also that she has chosen a role which is not a scene-stealer but contributes subtly to a very satisfying whole.

  • Main picture via Facebook by Manuel Harlan courtesy Old Vic Tickets
  • Have you heard any of these songs or seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
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