Reasons To Be Happy by Neil Labute, Hampstead Theatre, 8 April 2016

We were really looking forward to this one. We have been fans of Neil Labute’s writing since he first burst onto the theatre scene in London with Bash, all those years ago. We saw Reasons to be Pretty at the Almeida some five years ago and thought it was a very good play and production.

This one, Reasons to be Happy, is a companion piece/sequel with the same characters. Michael Attenborough, now no longer at the Almeida, directing as a guest at the Hampstead. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the problem with this one is the play. Labute has, for once, written a dull, ordinary play. There are some really sharp dialogue exchanges, as you might expect, but the plot is from “Rom Com Writing 101” and even some of the dialogue drags. The menace that usually underscores a Neil Labute play was there, sort-of, but was more like muzzled poodle menace than the usual unfettered pitbull menace.

In fact, some of the script was so predictably ordinary, I wondered whether Neil Labute has programmed an artificial intelligence version of himself to keep his writing going while he does other things, like crossing the Finchley Road and getting spotted by Ged and Daisy. If so, he hasn’t programmed the machine all that well.

I was well rested, after denying myself a punishing night after the Middlesex AGM Thursday, so I stayed awake throughout, just about. Daisy was not so well rested and had experienced a trying morning of slavery at the hands of her increasingly unreasonably demanding mother. Thus Daisy took full advantage of the opportunity to catch up on her sleep during the play. She didn’t miss much, although she was understandably slightly confused about the outcome at the end of the show.

But she didn’t really care about that outcome. Nor did I.

It’s a shame, because the cast were good, doing their best to get something out of the dull script. The set was interesting enough. Michael Attenborough sure can direct, but you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

In A Dark Dark House by Neil LaBute, Almeida Theatre, 29 November 2008

This was a very troubling play by Neil LaBute – as his plays so often are. At the Almeida, as LaBute’s plays so often are.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource on this production.

The acting was terrific but we didn’t get the same wow factor from this one as we sometimes do with LaBute.

Good LaBute but not the very best LaBute was our verdict. But we were still discussing the issues deep into the weekend.

 

Land of the Dead and Helter Skelter by Neil LaBute, Bush Theatre, 18 January 2008

Neil LaBute is good at short, punchy plays. These two, Land of the Dead and Helter Skelter – see Bush Theatre stub here,  are companion pieces.

It was a Friday evening, so it was stronger meat than we would normally choose for the end of the working week. Still, we were really taken by these plays and this production of them. The reviews we can still find tend to agree with us: