All New People
How to win over a cynical reviewer
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You’d be forgiven for dismissing All New People because of its writer and star, Zach Braff. The promo material tells you he’s been nominated for 17 Emmys, but you do wonder if he’s actually ever won any, considering he previously wrote and starred in the painfully self satisfied Garden State, and has been making subpar comedy on Scrubs for years.
Turning up at the Duke of York to see him in his UK stage debut is like having your worst fears realised: the couple next to us are taking arty photos of a water bottle on their iPhones and there isn’t a soul in the audience who looks like they’re over 50.
But then the play starts. And it’s funny; really funny, guffaw funny, actually.
The story revolves around Charlie (Braff), a suicidal air traffic controller whose efforts to top himself at a secluded beach house are interrupted by an unusual array of characters: an English realtor Emma (Eve Myles) a glue huffing fireman Myron (Paul Hilton) and an escort who describes herself as the Louis Vutton of vagina, Kim (Susannah Fielding).
There is some predictability here – Braff’s character is inevitably morose and Jewish – but despite being a Hollywood star, he’s generous with the limelight. In fact, Myles and Fielding are the absolute highlights with all of the best lines.
The plot is threadbare to say the least, with reflections on loneliness and fate of a similar depth you’d find on a teenager’s Tumblr. But if you ignore all of the implied angst, you’ll enjoy the play from start to finish; the characters skillfully gloss over the cracks with lightning wit and charm.
Well, almost. All four characters are onstage together for almost the entire duration of the show, with no interval, on the same set. So in order to fill in their backstories, the curtain is lowered and we’re offered some slick pre-shot films to fill the void. It’s just lazy theatre; nobody left the house to go to the cinema and you feel slightly cheated. Fortunately, it only happens a few times and is quickly forgiven.
Ultimately, All New People is as deep as a puddle, and you respect yourself a little bit less for enjoying it, but you spend too long chortling to care.
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Until 28 April, Duke Of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London
Words: Rebecca Moore