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A CurtainUp London Review
The Writer

"I want awe. I feel like I need blood. All the time. And anything less than that makes me feel desperate. It makes me feel like I want to die." — The Writer
The Writer
Lara Rossi and Romola Garai (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
The opening scene of Ella Hickson's new play has a woman, an audience member (Lara Rossi) who has left her bag in the auditorium returning to the theatre and telling a man (Samuel West) exactly what she thought of the play. Her detailed and vehement critique cuts him no slack. "Famous people doing boring things badly, " she says.

She criticises a play similar to Laura Wade's Posh about badly behaved rich and privileged men where she said the audience were "posh boys enjoying it." She complains about a rape that was there to titillate and about female stage hands in hot pants changing the scenery. Her point is that theatre is not making a difference. She talks about actors desperate for work unable to change things. She says she wants "the world to change shape, to dismantle capitalism and overturn the patriarchy". She says that people look at her and three questions come to mind: "How old is she? How hot is she? How fuckable?" People would look at him and wonder what he will say.

Lara Rossi's speech is extraordinary, exciting and challenging. Samuel West as the director and theatre maker recognises that she has something to say and asks her to write for him. He says he can offer her work. She refuses, offers a few final insults and leaves . . . only to return momentarily and reveal that they had met before and that he doesn't recall it. "Have you changed your hair?" he asks.

She had met him when she was a student six years ago. He had on that occasion offered her paid work but he had also tried to kiss her and invited her to come to his hotel room. The audience is now firmly in the "Me Too" territory of all those women approached by Harvey Weinstein or the like, men in authority using their power to make sexual advances.

The next scene is a Question and Answer Forum. The writer (Romula Garai), the director (Michael Gould) and two actors (Lara Rossi and Sam West). What we have been watching was not reality, in as far as theatre is reality, but a play within a play. The discussion continues with the director putting down the writer's ideas and she rather earnestly and nervously tries to explain to the audience what she was attempting to do. The director belittles the writer asking for more scenes like the first one.

We cut to a scene change by women in overalls building a box set where Sam West and Romola Garai are living together. He is cooking her favourite cassoulet to celebrate the offer made to her of £40,000 to turn her script into a film. The new sofa was bought by him in anticipation of the new funds but she doesn't want to sign the contract. There is a sex scene on the sofa which we can hear. They argue and he tips the cassoulet over her laptop.

A scene in darkness in the woods leads to another domestic scene where Romola Garai and Lara Rossi are now living together and sharing a curry. There is more sex behind the sofa.

Blanche McIntyre is a very good director and Ella Hickson's play is designed to be provocative and divisive. Romula Garai and Lara Rossi are outstanding actors. Do I have to watch a scene of Lesbian simulated sex with a doubled ended dildo in order to break the male patriarchal dominance of theatre?

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The Writer by Ella HIckson
Directed by Blanche McIntyre
Starring: Romola Garai, Samuel West, Lara Rossi, Michael Gould
Design: Anna Fleischle
Sound Design: Emma Laxton
Lighting Design: Richard Howell
Video Design: Zakk Hein
Movement: Sasha Milavic Davies
Running time: 2 hours without an interval
Box Office: 020 7359 4404
Booking to 26th May 2018
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 25th April 2018 performance at the Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street London N1 1TA (Tube: Angel)
Index of reviewed shows still running

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