Review: Muswell Hill
Life gets complicated in Muswell Hill
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A middle class couple are throwing a dinner party in London’s fashionable Muswell Hill. He’s having trouble finding a publisher for his novel set amidst the racy world of fashion catwalks. She needs to find suitable sustenance for a recently herbivorous houseguest. AND her younger sister has turned up with a much older fiancé. Life is SO complicated. Meanwhile an earthquake in Haiti leaves a hundred thousand people dead and almost two million homeless.
This is a gimmick-free piece of theatre with something to say, and it isn’t afraid to say it with gusto. Bourgeois goings-on initially appear prescient and involving, but petite pinpricks of news concerning the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Haiti effectively burst the mirage of meaning, and the diners’ self-involved importance is exposed as fatuous fancy. They are cogs spinning in servitude of a corrupt and ugly system – one that is out of sight and out of mind – and content to griddle while Rome burns.
As hosts Jess and Matt, Annabel Bates and Jack Johns are suburbanly superb, entirely encapsulating the materialistic multitudes that colour their lives by number. Gregory Cox is hilarious, and chillingly familiar, as Tony, the pompous drama-school tutor who’s partial to prawns AND avocado, and shacked up with Jess’ fame-hungry younger sister Annie – brought vividly to life with merciless observational wit by Nicole Abraham.
Dinner guests Karen and Simon, played by Fiona Rodrigo and Alastair Natkiel, are the only two characters to exhibit any signs of being awake and alert to the reality alterity. Rodrigo uses understatement with sizable success and gives us a comic creation to truly cherish. Natkiel acts as the conscience of the piece and delivers a final monologue on the desperate need to urgently address global crisis with memorable potency and passion.
The kitchen set, with its extreme proximity to the front row of audience seating, works well, adding immersion to the layers of artifice. Rubble and detritus strewn across the stage is pointedly ignored to great effect.
A tasty dish, full of fibre – with plenty of meat to devour and digest.
GT gives it: 4/5
Muswell Hill runs at the White Bear theatre until August 30th. For full details visit their website.
Words: Richard Unwin
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