A surreal comedy about relationships is how you could describe Perrier Award winner Will Adamsdale’s disappointing new play The Victorian in the Wall (Royal Court Upstairs).
When Guy, a work-shy, middle-aged writer, decides that everything in his life – his stagnated career, romance and vision – could be enhanced by some home improvements, he does what countless others have done before him, he knocks down a wall in his house to turn two living spaces into an open-plan environment. Only unlike most people he finds something unusual in the wall: a Victorian gentleman who happens to be living there. Everyone’s pretty surprised. Adjustments have to be made. Can this extraordinary lodger help Guy with some of his 21st century issues, unlock his hopeless career and his flagging relationship?
This is an initially promising piece which sadly fails to live up to expectations. The main problem is that the play is basically an anecdote which might be fine for a 30-minute television comedy sitcom but which has been stretched out to 95 minutes. The humour at the expense of the class system, the London property scene and changing attitudes is at times quite funny but the story and characterisation are too thin to carry much weight, while the set comprising loads of boxes and some rubbish bins piled high, and the playing area marked out with the words ‘kitchen’, ‘living room’, ‘study’ to suggest the protagonist’s home, leaves everything to the audience’s imagination.
However Will Adamsdale, who, apart from writing the play, co-directed it with Lyndsey Turner, gives a hard-working, engaging performance as Guy, and he is supported by a fine cast of whom Melanie Wilson as his long-suffering girl friend makes the biggest impression.
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