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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Spur Of The Moment
Royal Court Theatre  Summer 2010

The Royal Court's Young Writers Programme has turned up yet another winner.

Spur Of The Moment has its minor flaws, but Anya Reiss, 17 when she wrote it, is unquestionably a real writer. Her limitations are of technique, and will undoubtedly soon be mastered, but the talent is all there.

Reiss presents us with a family beset by a rash of small crises. Father has had an affair and lost his job, and he and mother seem trapped on a plateau of sniping and bickering from which they can't escape. Twelve-year-old daughter has the usual twelve-year-old problems, including a crush on the twentyish boarder, who's got his own catalogue of normal issues.

Everybody bounces off everybody, a few potentially major missteps are narrowly avoided, and things carry on, a little better in some ways and a little worse in others.

Among the play's strengths are its clear affection for its forgivably flawed characters and the ways it captures the sometimes messy complications of ordinary reality. Reiss knows exactly how a gaggle of young girls mix closeness and casual bullying, how a married couple can trap themselves in a pattern of sniping in which there are no safe or innocent things to say, and how a young man who really does know better will still have trouble resisting temptation handed him on a silver platter.

And even more impressively, the young playwright knows how very close high drama and broad farce can be, and how easily the most serious and heartfelt moments can tip over into comedy.

What she hasn’t fully mastered yet is construction - how to keep the various strands and plot lines from occasionally seeming to come out of separate plays, how to use her secondary characters (the girl’s buddies, the boy’s girlfriend) most effectively, and especially how to point everything toward a satisfying conclusion rather than just letting it stop at an almost arbitrary point.

But those, as I said, are just matters of technique and easily learned, and even here they are minor quibbles that don’t really hurt the play.

Director Jeremy Herrin brings out all the play’s strengths, particularly its warmth and well-wishing toward its characters, and effectively papers over most of its small flaws. Newcomer Shannon Tarbet makes a remarkable professional debut, believably and sympathetically capturing all the pain and ridiculousness of being not-quite-thirteen.

Kevin Doyle and Sharon Small make us care for the parents who really want to find a way out of the corner they’ve bickered their way into, while still letting us laugh at some of the forms their warfare takes, and James McArdle makes us believe in an honourable lad in a creepy situation.

The next play Anya Reiss writes is likely to be brilliant. See this one so you can say you were there at the start.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Spur of the Moment - Royal Court 2010