Friday, 27 November 2015

REVIEW - Evening At The Talk House, National Theatre

Three Stars

Scene from Evening At The Talk House, credit Catherine Ashmore

RUFUS Norris' tenure at the National Theatre certainly started with a bang earlier this year with a series of frankly stunning shows.
So it comes as a bit of a shock to the system that new play Evening At The Talk House at the Dorfman doesn't appear to be quite in that league. In fact it appears a bit of a blip has occurred – though how it did I'm not sure.
It's a shame because the play has all the hallmarks of a promising piece. It is penned by American actor and playwright Wallace Shawn and it has a stellar cast - including Shawn himself who plays a washed up has bean of an actor who has been roughed up by his "friends" and is now seeking sanctuary in the Talk House.
However, it is all a bit weird. It seems unfinished, not at all polished and in fact I couldn't exactly tell you what it was really about but I had a pretty bleak view of humanity by the end of it.
But that's not to say it wasn't fascinating or absorbing. It was in a strange way. I just didn't understand it and I know from the faces of those around me at the end of the performance that I wasn't the only one.
It appeared to revolve around a group of actors, writers and producers who had in their heyday frequented The Talk House, a private members club.
They gathered again one night after a period of 10 years in which we glean that their lives have gone in very different directions – some have become much more successful while others have fared less well.
As they chat over copious glasses of alcohol and an abundance of food - for which the club appears to have been known - many subjects looked as though they were going to be tackled. These include the terror threat, declining cultural standards, a debate on TV versus theatre and how children were being taught to murder fellow citizens. But none of them were knitted together or explored fully.
The set had echoes of an Agatha Christie story and given that there were ramblings about how some of the characters now had jobs "sticking" random people (murdering them) in places like Nigeria I fully expected someone to get bumped off.
They didn't, although one character spent a good five minutes towards the end wailing about how she wanted to die.
The end, when it came was a bit of a damp squib too. While some may find the themes interesting for me they weren't explored enough.

Evening At The Talk House is on at the National Theatre until March 30. Tickets from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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