Against by Christopher Shinn, Almeida Theatre, 26 August 2017

Unfortunately, this one didn’t really do the business for us.

I said to Janie at the interval, “if this play manages to pull together all of its big and disparate themes in the second half, we’re in for one cracker of a second half.” I didn’t think it would. It didn’t.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource on the play/production.

Strangely, I don’t think we’d ever seen a Christopher Shinn play before. I say strangely, because he has had so many of his works performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, which we frequent a lot. Perhaps the subject matter has never appealed to us before.

This sounded interesting from the Almeida blurb and indeed it was interesting subject matter. Too much of it; violence in society, sexual politics, religion, workers’ increasing sense of powerlessness…

…but the performances were all very good. They seemed, to us, wasted on this play.

Tellingly, the Almeida resource does not link to reviews, so here are a few links:

To help rescue our evening, we ran into Jilly Black sitting, with a friend, a few rows behind us. We chatted with them after the show; indeed Janie dropped them at Baker Street giving us quite a bit of very pleasant post show chat time.

It is not very often that we bemoan the extra few minutes journey time to the Almeida; normally that place is well worth the extra few minutes each way, but this piece left us warm to the interesting topics but decidedly cold to the play,

Torn by Nathaniel Martello-White, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 24 September 2016

On paper, this looked so good I booked it twice.

Well, in truth, what happened was, this production was tagged on to the end of an almost year-long season booking list almost a year ago, then was re-promoted a few months ago and I didn’t realise that I had already booked it. The Royal Court very kindly took the second set of tickets back; they seem to treat the term “Friend Of” as a reciprocal thing more than most theatres these days – respect.

Anyway, I really liked the look of this production and was in a very good mood for some more drama, as if the thrill of Middlesex’s last day/last hour triumph in the County Championship the day before had not been enough drama for the next year or so.  

Truth is, this play/production did not really float my boat; nor did it float Janie’s. The subject matter should have kept us rapt and engaged; a young woman confronting her family with complicity in the racial and sexual abuse she suffered as a child and youngster, especially at the hands of her step-father.

Yet it all came across as a rather shouty, soap-opera style drama workshop exercise; the latter part of which description is presumably where this play and production started its life. Fine actors, but somewhat untrammelled in/by this play/production.

Here is the Royal Court stub for Torn.

It seems to have had terrific reviews, so I guess the problem is us, not the play/production.  Half-a dozen rave reviews linked on the fourth tab of the above stub so no need for me to repeat them here.  Of the usual suspects, only Chris Bennion of the Telegraph seems less sure and even then thinks the piece worthwhile for “what it has to say”. 

I believe the run is sold out in any case, but perhaps it will get an extension or a transfer given the rave reviews.

For us, I’m mighty glad that we don’t have to see it twice.

We indulged ourselves with Mohsen’s Persian food after the play, which made us feel that the evening was most worthwhile, despite the play.