A CurtainUp London Review
I and You
The same mysterious theatre programme tells us that playwright Lauren Gooderson appears in "the Top 20 Most Produced Playwrights in the United States List" a few years back and in the last three years she has been in first or second place on this list which excludes only Shakespeare among playwrights both living and dead. I and You is the first time she has been produced, professionally at least, in the UK.
Like my colleague Charles Wright in New York, I can say that the play has some surprises which I cannot reveal but I shall try to review the rest. I and You is set in a teenager's bedroom and Michael Pavelka's detailed set has many clues which you slowly notice. The back wall is a collage of the many pictures which have inspired the room's owner Caroline (Maisie Williams) to glue them there together.
Caroline's visitor, whom she initially receives coldly, who is the same age as her, is Anthony (Zach Wyatt). He is at her high school and although she is not attending school but studying at home, Anthony wants her to work on a project together about the poet Walt Whitman and his poem "Song of Self" from "Leaves of Grass". Anthony brings a makeshift poster which he would like Caroline to work on. It emerges that Caroline is too ill to attend school. I notice that the bedside table is crammed full of pills and drugs to treat Caroline.
Anthony's specific theme for his project is too look at the use of the pronouns "I" and "You" in Whitman's poem. At first Caroline is resistant but as they talk together, she is sometimes angry or challenging but his response is to listen and to tell her about a shocking incident on the basketball court at school. Over 90 minutes, Caroline agrees to help, at first taking Anthony's amateurish poster to task and using her art materials to make it more visual.
Both actors here are making their stage debut, although Maisie Williams has a long film pedigree and is a regular in Seasons 1 to 8 of Game of Thrones for which she has won awards; Zach Wyatt is newly graduated this year from Guildford School of Music and Drama.
The two young actors make a believable impact; we like both of them, appreciate how bristly and prickly Caroline is at first, and why. We admire Anthony for his perseverance and patience. With the benefit of the denouement we understand how their experience links in to Whitman's ideas about nature and identity and how we belong together.
Hampstead Theatre has given Gunderson's play its best shot with Ed Hall directing and two young stars who give good performances but I agree with our reviewer Charles Wright's reservations here. My feeling is that the script is slight and the plot feels contrived.
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I and You
Written by Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Edward Hall
Starring: Maisie Williams, Zach Wyatt
Design: Michael Pavelka
Sound Design: Paul Groothuis
Lighting Design: Matt Haskins
Running time: One Hours 35 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7722 9301
Booking to 24th November 2018
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 29th October 2018 performance at Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, London NW3 3EU (Tube: Swiss Cottage)
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