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A CurtainUp London Review
The Acid Test
Three twenty-somethings share a flat in London and when one of them offers to put up her father for the night, there are different group dynamics at work. Jim (Denis Lawson) has been ejected from the family home pending a marital split. The two flatmates, who are each suffering from a crisis in their haphazard relationships, decide to get drunk and Jim joins them in chucking back the shots of alcohol. Jim's daughter Jessica (Lydia Wilson) looks on with increasing despair at her father's behaviour and she becomes the parent figure admonishing her own father who is staunchly defended by her drunkenly indulgent flatmates.
The group repartee in The Acid Test is satisfyingly crafted as Jim joins in the party with young women, the same age as his daughter, enjoying their flattery and attention. Anya Reiss has a very good ear for natural dialogue but the characters that are exposed are leading essentially shallow and random lives as they lurch from one dysfunctional relationship to another. Dana (Vanessa Kirby) makes the mistake of sleeping with her boss and Ruth (Phoebe Fox) has just split from her depressive, suicidal boyfriend; both situations the addition of alcohol can only make worse.
Denis Lawson's believable performance is the glue which holds the play together as he enjoys the social company of the two flat mates but is unable to talk with his own daughter without both of them sniping at the other in an uncomfortable to watch scene. As he calls his daughter by his wife's name, we realise that Jessica is fielding his anger at the collapse of his marriage. As Jessica, Lydia Wilson gives a very good, unshowy performance conveying the awkwardness felt by Jim's daughter. We feel her embarrassment at her father's behaviour with her friends as he enjoys the novelty of their attention. Vanessa Kirby and Phoebe Fox have emotional roller coaster roles which are by turns comic and tragic which they fall into, alcohol releasing their inhibitions and fuelling much of the comedy.
Paul Will's communal living room set in the girls' flat is stuffed with shambolic detail and discarded clothing and underwear. Simon Godwin directs assuredly. The ending is a tad glib making the drunken night seem like an isolated bleep on a graph but the dialogue is funny and The Acid Test is very watchable if not consequential.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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