16 December 2017
Paris is the city of love. At least, that’s the myth that surrounds it. Renting an apartment in Paris, mainly because she always wanted to go there, American couple Zack and Abby seemingly appear to be getting by just fine. He is a Doctor, who just happens to like smoking dope with his downstairs neighbour and landlord, Abby has mental health issues, which need keeping an eye on. The fact that Zak owes rent is the first hint that perhaps he is not the solid rock of this relationship. In Michael Longhurst’s taut, finely paced production, the tension cranks up to a thrilling and edge of the seat climax, superbly acted by the whole company.
In the TV series Happy Valley in particular, James Norton has demonstrated how effective he is at turning mood and tension in a split second. What exactly is the truth that Zack speaks or is everything a lie? He is matched by the superb Imogen Poots, (so good in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf earlier this year), who twists constantly between victim and antagonist- both together keep you fascinated as the tension, just like your loyalties, switch as the play progresses. Malachi Kirby and Faith Alabi, as the downstairs neighbours, are great counterpoints to the leads, providing light and alternative truths to the duo’s words and actions. It all takes place on a superb set by Tom Scutt, where the offstage action is delivered as well as the onstage.
It’s hard to avoid the H word, (Hitchcockian), but the play follows elements of the master’s style. It starts slowly, and you may wonder what the point is. But you realise that writer Amy Herzog has planted the seeds very cleverly, and the skilful actors gain gasps from the audience as the mood intensifies. I feel the final scene, which literally tidies things up, a little pointless as a cliff hanger had already happened. But the Donmar is the perfect venue for a tense thriller like this, a claustrophobic chamber piece of a thriller that delivers on so many levels.
To 3 February 2018