Yasmin Reza’s modern masterpiece is here brought to life in the most frenetic, extreme and exciting way. We enter to the scene of four adults appearing to have a normal meeting but as is soon revealed the meeting is not under the most ideal circumstances.
Michel, Annette, Veronique and Alain are brought together because one family’s 11-year-old-son has hit the other with a stick in the playground, breaking two of his teeth. While they aim to come together to discuss the event and reach an amicable agreement, before too long the discussions descend into anarchic tantrums between the two families and the couples themselves.
What is great about this production is how the cast so skillfully and gradually build up the tensions between the characters. From the outset we see the borderline OCD home-keeper Veronique, played masterfully by Lily Cooper, trying to take control of the situation and dictate what then begins to unravel around her, not at all helped by her in turn outrageous and hilariously obedient husband Michel. Max Fitzroy-Stone has got this character down to a tee, playing Michel with outrageous defiance contrasted with moments of real tenderness - it was riveting to watch him clash with the other occupants of the flat, tearing into their every flaw with unabashed menace.
As the breakdown of the couples goes on, the performance becomes more and more intriguing to watch and more and more exciting for the audience. This is partly down to Reza’s incredible talent for writing conflict but for the most part the talent of the ensemble carries enormous, uncontainable energy throughout the entire show. George Rowell playing Alain, the apparently uncaring and distracted lawyer-husband, hits the performance with just the right mix of pretentious dismissiveness and slimy professionalism, which gives his character an alluringly humourous dark streak. His wife Annette, played by Helena Clarke, proceeds to get further and further away from her original ‘phony’ character and is a key to the ever-impending breakdown that the group seems to constantly teetering over the edge of.
The minimalist set and simple lighting make sure that the audience’s attention is kept firmly on the characters and their individual conflicts, this being what makes the play everything it is. A great insight into human nature, this is a joyfully frantic and intense piece of theatre performed by a slick and compelling cast.