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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Unreachable
Royal Court Theatre  Summer 2016

Written and directed by Anthony Neilson but largely devised with the cast, Unreachable is pointless, purposeless and all but plotless, but thoroughly entertaining. Check any expectations of making sense out of it at the door, and you'll have a great time. 

A neurotic film director is trying to make a deeply philosophical post-apocalyptic science fiction movie or, rather, trying not to make it, as some phobia about finishing it leads him to constantly invent excuses for delaying.

His female producer mothers, coddles and bullies him along, while occasionally having it off with the cameraman, who himself has ambitions and lets the moneymen's on-set spy know that he's prepared to take over direction should they fire his boss. 

Meanwhile the female star is as far as possible from being a method actor, with no emotions or personality of her own but the ability to convincingly play any passion on cue. 

And the male lead is a thoroughly mad ham actor who fancies himself a dangerous Oliver Reed-style wildman and plays every moment, on camera or off, completely over the top. 

There is virtually no plot to the play, the only forward movement being some tentative pairing-off and the tortoise-like inching ahead of the movie making. 

What we get is a string of self-contained scenes, generally comic, which come in no particular order but are fun in themselves. 

The producer and cameraman have one of the funniest (simulated) sex scenes I've ever encountered, and then the actress sucks us into a deeply emotional speech and then shocks us by turning it off instantly. 

The director can wax eloquent about the specific quality of light he is searching for at one moment and then reprise an ancient slapstick gag the next. And the mad actor is just plain fun. 

The whole thing has a loose, making-it-up-as-they-go-along feel about it, and you sense that what you are seeing are in fact separate improvised sequences and audition pieces strung together by the nominal playwright. 

It is all so loose that when on Press Night a moth found its way onto the Royal Court stage, Matt Smith as the director could playfully chase it around without breaking character.

(Or could it be that the moth was part if the script? Check the programme to see if there is credit to a moth-wrangler.). 

Indeed there are several moments, particularly in Jonjo O'Neill's flights of verbiage as the mad actor, when you can't be certain whether what sounds scripted is actually ad libbed or whether the attempts to fight giggles on the part of his fellow actors are scripted and rehearsed rather than genuine. 

Matt Smith uses all his boyish charm to keep the director sympathetic and not just pathetic, and Jonjo O'Neill obviously has a ball running wild (or convincingly pretending to) as the crazy actor. 

There's solid if less flashy support by Amanda Drew (producer), Richard Pyros (cameraman), Tamara Lawrance (actress) and Genevieve Barr (spy).

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Unreachable  - Royal Court Theatre 2016  

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