Wednesday, 31 October 2018

REVIEW: A Very Very Very Dark Matter at the Bridge Theatre

Set largely in the cluttered attic of writer Hans Christian Andersen, this 90 minute world premiere by Martin McDonagh has split opinion of audiences at the Bridge; and it’s clear to see why.

On the one hand the cast are good with Jim Broadbent and Phil Daniels giving strong performances as Anderson and Dickens respectively. Newcomer Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles also shines as captive ghost writer Majory in this, her professional debut. The first scene between Anderson and Charles Dickens (repeatedly referred to as Charles Darwin) is a comedic highlight and Jim Broadbent really does carry this show.

The set design by Anna Fleischle is exquisite; full of intrigue and intricacies and gave hope to a play really creating a world and setting. In truth though, the design seemed a complete waste and the utter mess of the script really let the design and actors down.

With the writing, there was no clear time or place both in the story or language used and this really jarred with the design and costume. There was nothing clever or sophisticated about the text or the direction and all the elements of the production felt very disjointed.

Looking to the production list and there’s an exhaustive list of credits but little to show for it on stage. For instance, there are 2 Fight Directors listed but little to no fighting. The on stage death of Press Man was so lacklustre and flimsy that this didn’t look rehearsed let alone directed. A Video Associate is credited and the efforts are shown on stage in the form of a projection of fireworks in one scene. Perhaps the too many cooksmantra has taken focus away from the writing or Matthew Dunster’s direction?

There are some funny moments scattered through the text and these are well delivered by the cast, with Broadbent in particular enjoying the role of Hans, but all too often the jokes rely on shock of bad language with even the kids dropping swear words throughout. One couple left after an hour and a solo audience member boo’d during the finale –a theatre first for this reviewer! 

This was a production which missed the mark and didn’t deliver on expectation and is a text which, I suspect, will not be performed again. It’s a production given the green light because of McDonagh’s previous work not the quality of this text. It was a frustrating, bewildering and disappointing production which offered so much visually at the start but there was no cohesion between any of the elements. Drivel.

Review by Andy Edmeads 

Rating: ★
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