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A CurtainUp London Review
The play focuses on Beane (Cillian Murphy), an introverted, morbid and slightly lost character and his better-adjusted sister Joan (Kristen Johnston). Whilst for Beane, social interaction is baffling, his sister's trials are in her stressful, professional life where she is "surrounded by dipsticks" and she takes four-minute lunch breaks. Having just fired another intern, this time for tears after a misfiling incident, her contempt for the incompetent is hilarious: "Is it too hard to staple?" Johnston's performance as the tough, hard-nosed Joan reveals that she is a really accomplished comic actor as well as capable of acting great tenderness in her relationship with her vulnerable brother. Michael McKean was perfectly chosen as her husband Harry and the faultless comic timing and chemistry between pair was show-stealing.
Cillian Murphy's performance was also impressive as the oddball Beane, struggling equally with sanity and society. He has a wild-eyed, unkempt appearance and lives his liminal existence with scant possessions: a single cup and spoon. His apparent saviour emerges in the form of Molly (Neve Campbell), a burglar frustrated by Beane's lack of consumerism. Spiky and unafraid to break any boundary, Beane falls hopelessly and miraculously in love with this vandal-intruder. Expressing their love by sentimental stichomythic exchanges, the two social misfits mirror and complement each other. Moreover, Beane's new-found elation with life spreads to Joan and her husband.
In Molly, a very difficult part to pull off, Neve Campbell was disappointing. Her character pronounces that she is "capable of torrential violence" but the audience sees little of this dynamism.
Nevertheless, this is a very slick production. Paul Arditti's music was funky and spot-on appropriate throughout and Scott Pask's design was expertly sophisticated. Joan and Harry's very modern flat was bright, clean and light but suddenly shifts to Beane's run-down, grimy and windowless flat with fizzy lights and where the ceiling descends upon him. In a play where mental stability and reality is an issue, this split-personality design was delightfully apt.
There were some very funny scenes and John Crowley's direction made the most of Kolvenbach's clever writing. It may not be the most substantial or monumental play but this production is certainly enjoyable.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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