StageScan Pick: The Flick

Pulitzer winner The Flick received three- to five-star pro reviews on arrival at the National Theatre, with a 4-star average.

Sarah Crompton (What’s on Stage) suggested of its 3 ½-hours “those who ignore the acclaim and leave half-way are missing a treat”.  Stewart Pringle (The Stage) agreed Annie Baker’s depiction of “three lost souls” at work in one of the last ever pre-digital cinemas has been “rightfully vaunted” for its “simple, human truths captured in a complex interplay of nuances”. Crompton also saw, within “apparent artlessness”, themes “of performance and reality, of dream and illusion”.

She praised Sam Gold’s “clear-eyed direction” admitting “Nothing much happens” yet through its “series of short scenes, both funny and sad, we learn the story of these lives”. Even Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) who thought the production sometimes “maddeningly self-indulgent” also found “the ripening of melancholy… well served by the silences” describing a “slowness” which “becomes hypnotic” Pringle agreed” “By the second act it’s as mesmerising as it is hilarious”.

Crompton thought it “original and captivating” particularly because “form really does match content.” Pringle explained how celluloid film works by a “translation of life into a strobing of light and shadow”, creating “something beyond simple verisimilitude”,  observing a similarity in how “a rough love-triangle, carved as much out of monotony and familiarity as passion, is glimpsed in the gaps between tedious broom-work and the mopping of spilled colas”. Crompton reported “a stillness that is almost like a painting, rewarding patience, forcing you to pay attention”, judging it “A mighty achievement”.  At the same time Pringle saw “Cinematic cliché” become a “subtle stand-in for the world’s expectations… of happy marriages, sexual fluency and the sincerity of friendship”.

All hailed performances which Crompton called “staggering”. Pringle thought Louisa Krause “the stand-out” adding “with the least to say but the most to describe, she emotes considerable, gnawing depths”. Letts declared Matthew Maher “spectacularly good” and Crompton was impressed by the “apparently unselfconscious naturalism” of both.  She found “the nuance and subtlety of every glance… breathtakingly revealing” but also suggested newcomer Jaygann Ayeh “pretty much matches them”.

Pringle hailed an “Understated epic of dreams, disappointment and tenacity” and Letts enjoyed “a touching, memorable evening” with “a lovely elegiac tone”. Crompton spoke for most in describing “A play rich in humour and insight that reveals its purpose slowly but to devastating and memorable effect”.

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