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Theatre review: The Acid Test 
6th-Jun-2011 10:29 pm
Having stolen Polly Stenham's thunder as the Royal Court's poster-girl for precociously young playwrights, Anya Reiss returns to the Jerwood Upstairs with her second play, The Acid Test. In a return to the venue's trademark immersive sets, designer Paul Wills has the audience walk around the dingy, winding corridors of a block of flats before arriving at the one shared by three girls in their early twenties. It's Friday night and Dana (Vanessa Kirby) is considering sleeeping with her boss; Ruth (Phoebe Fox) has just been dumped by her pretentious hipster boyfriend. They're already well on the way to being drunk when Jessica (Lydia Wilson) returns trailing an unexpected house guest: Her father Jim (Denis Lawson) who's just been kicked out of home as his wife's replaced him with the roofer. They all continue to get even more drunk throughout the night, as Jim offers Ruth and Dana advice on where they're going wrong; before having to face his own problems in that he has no real relationship with his daughter.

Most of all, The Acid Test is very funny; the performances in Simon Godwin's production are all pitch-perfect, getting away with the physical comedy required of pretty much non-stop drunk acting; although Fox just steals the comic honours with an immensely likeable turn. Reiss' dialogue is spot-on as well - I would have thought she's destined to write a sitcom pretty soon, in fact take away the character resolution and some of the swearing and these characters could go straight on TV. It's this resolution that's not quite as strong though, and as the four begin to face their demons it did feel a bit as if serious issues were being crowbarred into a sitcom principally so it would fit the Royal Court's artistic remit. By the end I thought Reiss got away with the supposed heart of the piece - she doesn't really have much to say about whether getting older is the same as growing up but she says it entertainingly.

Elsewhere, I was totally freaked out by the fact that Wills' set seemed to have been designed around our conversation outside the theatre: We sat right by the TV in the flat, where a load of DVD covers were spread around. I'd been talking to Andy about the fact that I'm considering seeing the musical version of Catch Me If You Can when I'm in New York, and there the original film was, right next to Withnail and I - we'd spotted Richard E. Grant outside the theatre. There was also Taxi Driver, which we'd talked about recently. And a couple of Harry Potter books were strewn around - Harry "Dudley" Melling was sitting to the left of us in the audience. Freaky. In other news, it was nice to finally meet 3rdspearcarrier after repeatedly just missing each other at shows (like last week when he went to the matinee of Betrayal just before I went to the evening show.)

The Acid Test by Anya Reiss is booking until the 11th of June at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs (returns only.)
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