BU21 has received a solid four-star reception from pro critics on transferring to Trafalgar Studios (after a 4.5-star premiere at Theatre503). Among the new reviewers, Paul Taylor (The Independent) hailed Stuart Slade’s “wily, bracing play” which “explores how six millennials are affected by a terrorist outrage”. Andrzej Lukowski (Time Out) found it “smart, cynical” as it it examines “its characters’ flaws and their ability to squander the basic nobility afforded by surviving a terrible tragedy”. Fiona Mountford (Evening Standard) acknowledged “the glummest set-up” but found “six close-up, compelling and often blackly comic stories”. She hailed its “refreshing… unpretentious humanity” and “quiet insistence that the life instinct in us is ferociously strong”.
Michael Billington (The Guardian) thought it “extraordinary” and saw it suggest that, in a city “full of deep divisions of class, income and religion… any external threat fosters a bogus solidarity.” Lukowski said it “homes in on these people’s lives – and doesn’t like what it sees”. Billington particularly admired it for being “unafraid to provoke wild laughter in the face of death” and Taylor reported “calculated audacity” although found the whole “occasionally.. too relentlessly self-aware”. He found “amoral Alex… teasingly complicit with what he regards as the audience’s voyeurism” and Billington thought this character’s asides to the audience add “zest and brio”. Lukowski agreed the play “threatens to overplay its provocations” but thought it saved by “a bristling, pugilistic hunger, a raucous sense of humour and a refusal to be satisfied with itself”.
Mountford praised Dan Pick’s “fluid production” and Taylor found it “tonally adroit” balancing “cynical knowingness with finely captured feeling”. Billington found the set’s “plastic chairs and strip lighting” reinforced “the feeling that we are watching an authentic group confessional”.
Taylor thought it “excellently acted” and Mountford praised “six fine performances that tread the tonal tightrope impeccably”. Billington saw them all “highlight the way crisis breeds a strange mix of selfishness, grief, resilience and opportunism”. Taylor saw Alex “played with reprehensible charm” by Alexander Forsyth and thought Graham O’Mara “spot-on… welling sentiment that queasily conjoins London pride and unreconstructed racism”. He found Roxana Lupu ”exudes quiet moral authority as the horribly burned Ana”. Mountford highlighted Florence Roberts for a performance with “an unmistakable sprinkle of stardust”.
Billington admired “a play that questions our assumptions about collective heroism and makes fascinating drama out of personal trauma”. Mountford summed up “an accomplished piece”, “constantly sparky” that “delights in surprising and wrong-footing us”. Lukowski, suggesting it’s “clear that Slade loves his characters: shits that they are, he makes us understand them all”, hailed “a genuinely fascinating new voice”. Taylor reported “disarming frankness” to “take your breath away with the depth of its moral challenge” and “candour” which “can make you gasp with uneasy laughter” concluding: “Strongly recommended”.
Runs to 18 Feb 2017 with some tickets still available from ATG.