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Theatre review: Realism 
20th-Jun-2011 10:34 pm
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The writer, director and designer of a 2009 production I still regularly remember fondly, Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness, return to Soho Theatre with a revival of Anthony Neilson's 2006 play Realism (its first London outing) which also marks Steve Marmion's debut as artistic director of the venue. This particular journey into the surreal sees Tim (Tim Treloar,) who's just broken up with his girlfriend (Golda Rosheuvel) decide to spend his Saturday at home alone, mainly moping, wanking and watching TV. What we see next is Tim's thoughts brought to life as his flat gets invaded by a combination of memories and flights of fancy. He remembers his recent ex-girlfriend as well as the first girl he really loved (Robyn Addison) and his parents (Joanna Holden & Barry McCarthy.) Meanwhile he imagines a childhood friend (Shane Zaza) turning up to make fun of how his adult self's turned out, what people would say at his funeral if his best friend (Rocky Marshall) murdered him for no reason, and desperately tries not to think about the Black and White Minstrels because he suspects if they pop into his head too often it means he's racist.

Realism has a lot of laugh-out-loud moments and a genuine sadness at its heart but its title is very accurate - this feels exactly like how someone's thoughts on a bored afternoon would play out, with all the unexpected connections, fantasies and replayings of how you could have done things differently. Given the far-from-naturalistic style it's noticeable how familiar a lot of the flights of fancy are - like Tim watching a TV debate and knowing how if he was there his one perfectly worded argument would shut everyone up; or wishing he was more firm to telephone sales people, then when he does talk back feeling guilty about ruining someone's day when they were just doing their job (the way he visualises this self-imposed guilt trip is a highlight of the show.) Tom Scutt's set quickly reveals itself to be another highlight, raised slightly to provide a multitude of trapdoors for the other characters to appear from, Zaza to tumble acrobatically out of when least expected, and that favourite theatrical meme of mine, people entering and exiting via kitchen appliances (I was disappointed to see that the cat flap was clearly too small for anyone to turn up through that.)

I've enjoyed all of Neilson's plays I've seen so far, and he really is someone who it's impossible to predict just what you're going to get when you turn up, but it's usually worth seeing. The website's description was pretty vague so Richard was taking a bit of a punt by taking my spare ticket but he was very glad he did as well - the aforementioned "telephone sales" stream of consciousness was something we were talking about on the way out. Performed with lots of energy, this is another one of those shows where - in a good way - it's not quite like anything else you'll see.

Realism by Anthony Neilson is booking until the 9th of July at Soho Theatre.
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