(Seen at the afternoon performance on 5th December 2016).
Sometimes, the monkey suspects that a play only makes it to London because it
has "names" attached. This is one of those times. Rylance both co-wrote and
stars in this bewildering slice of male-bonding, devoid of anything resembling a
plot, structure, style, wit or substance.
Fortunately just an hour and a half long (and if the monkey hadn't been
mid-row and "on duty" it would have made a dash for it at the third or so of
many black-outs) nothing holds the attention bar a reasonable scene about
fishing licences (Bob Davis, nice performance) which could have come from the
type of sit-com you stumble across on TV and which holds your attention for a
few moments while ad-breaks are on the other side. You then shudder and switch
back, grateful you don't have to endure the rest.
For this does indeed vanish far up its fundamental, getting far worse without
ever getting better. "Breaking the fourth wall" is not only risky, but when it
is positioned with part of the show still to go, is downright reckless, and
fatally destructive to any atmosphere required for the remaining years, er,
minutes of the production.
Rylance turns in a standard performance, impressive if you've never seen him
work before, less so if you know his style. Friend Wayne (Raye Birk) is
similarly in tune with the star, and lumbered with another crumby role. Kayli
Carter (Flo) has a sweet singing voice but no reason to be there, and nor does
Erik (Jim Lichtscheidl).
If Pinter's "No Man's Land" seems confusing, at least it has immense style
and portentous meaning to convince us of the gravity of its existence. This has
less gravity than the moon, less intelligence than moon rock and puppets which,
thanks to Todd Rosenthal's impressive but badly installed set, are as pathetic
as they are invisible.
For fans of tenth rate US cable TV comedy, this could be worth catching.
Those who want to see Rylance act will also get some value from a ticket. The
literate theatregoer, however, should very quickly spot the Emperor's missing
clothes and give this fiasco the wide berth it deserves.