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The Theatreguide.London Review

This Is How It Goes
King's Head Theatre      Autumn 2010

A play by Neil LaBute is likely to push you outside your comfort zone with thoughts about things you might prefer not to think about, and also to lie to you - or at least to present events before you that are later shown to be not quite what they seemed.

While these are both things that might scare some people off, they are exactly the elements that will attract others.

Consider the uncomfortable thoughts. One of the three characters in This Is How It Goes is an angry African-American and another is more of a racist than he'd care to admit.

So things are exposed about the continuing dilemma of race in America, particularly the very thin veneer of civility that barely enables both sides to coexist in an uncomfortable peace.

As to the lying, the play begins as our amiable hero recounts and enacts for us a chance meeting, twelve years after graduation, with a girl he knew in high school, who is now the unhappy trophy wife of a successful black businessman.

Now, without spoiling too much, I'll just say that some of what I've just told you turns out not to be true, that some of what we will see as the play progresses will afterwards be dismissed as fantasy, false memory or outright lie.

The string of corrections and revelations will continually force us to reconsider and redefine everything we've seen so far, the end result being much darker than the jolly rom com we seemed to be setting out on at the start, with at least two of the characters exposed as rather unpleasant human beings.

And so, as with some other LaBute plays, your enjoyment of This Is How It Goes will depend to a large extent on how much pleasure you take in having romantic bubbles burst and your worst suspicions about human indecency confirmed.

And I have to admit that, while I'm at least as cynical as the next guy, I found this play and its revelations rather unpleasant, no matter how (or perhaps because of how) cleverly it is put together.

Playing characters who are repeatedly exposed as not what we thought they were a moment earlier, director Seb Billings' cast - Tom Greaves (guy), Gemma Atkinson (wife) and Okezie Morro (husband) - all have trouble keeping up with the changes, Greaves in particular stuck in the innocent 'Aw shucks' persona of the opening scenes long after the play's twists and revelations should have demolished it.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of This Is How It Goes - King's Head  Theatre 2010


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