A couple of years ago the Royal Court scored a big hit and a lot of publicity with Polly Stenham's precocious debut, That Face
, so you might wonder if there's a cynical attempt to replicate some of that buzz in producing another play by a teenager. Fortunately Anya Reiss, who wrote Spur of the Moment
at 17, justifies the theatre's faith in her with a solid, entertaining and interesting piece. There is another similarity with Stenham though, in that Reiss also focuses on a middle-class, nuclear family and shows them to be as spectacularly fucked up under the surface as any denizen of The Jeremy Kyle Show
The central character is Delilah (an incredibly assured stage debut from Shannon Tarbet,) 12 years old going on 13, and lusting after the 21-year old lodger, Daniel (James McArdle, fresh from playing Malcolm in the Globe's recent Danteesque Macbeth
.) When her parents' arguing gets too much for her, in the titular spur of the moment, Delilah kisses Daniel, to his horror. Then the next day, Daniel kisses back. It says a lot about the writing but also Tarbet and McArdle's performances that this setup doesn't put either character into a familiar box - Delilah isn't a Lolita, Daniel not a sleaze. You just get to follow the story on its own terms, and the story itself doesn't always go in the directions you think it might either. But despite all this the focus of the play lies elsewhere, as the parents (Kevin Doyle and Sharon Small) are so wrapped up in their constant squabbling and one-upmanship (which provides many of the play's funniest moments) that their daughter's crisis takes place right under their noses.
Elsewhere there's a small role (but with one big scene) for Yasmin Paige, formerly of The Sarah Jane Adventures
, as one of Delilah's friends, and she's also good here. Director Jeremy Herrin does a good job of what could be quite a tonally difficult play (with much running in and out of different rooms, it borders on farce sometimes) and overall this is indeed impressive, although I think some of the 5-star reviews may be a bit much and (ironically considering this is such an unpardonable sin in the play) a touch patronising on account of the writer's age. Incidentally if you're planning on seeing this, Max Jones' (clever, with a witty little surprise hidden in it as well) set is on two levels, so while I'm normally happy to sit in the front row, I opted for about five rows back this time, and I'd recommend that if you get there in time (it's unreserved seating as always Upstairs) because quite a lot of the action does take place in the upper level.Spur of the Moment
by Anya Reiss is booking until the 21st of August at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.