Superb Simplicity: THE FLICK at the National Theatre, Dorfman

When it first received high critical acclaim at the start of its New York run, I wanted to see The Flick. Since then, the show has bagged itself the Pulitzer Prize for Drama alongside a slew of other awards so when it finally made its long-awaited transfer to the National Theatre, I made my way straight down there to see what all of the fuss is about.

There's something about this piece of conversational theatre that really speaks to people and resonates with them; it's very long, arguably very boring and decidedly unexciting, but that is the total beauty of it. It is an undeniably well-written piece of theatre that doesn't tell anything but the truth; it is real and raw.

The story of The Flick is a simple one. It follows three employees of a small independent cinema in Massachusetts - Avery, Sam and Rose - as the two men sweep the floors and clean the loos, whilst Rose is busy working the projector upstairs. Set entirely in a cinema screen, it basically follows the mundane conversation that the three characters share over the space of a couple of weeks. Despite how basic the concept might be, it's a fantastic look at the reality of the human condition and takes some of the most average characters known to man and makes their stories the focal point. Sure, the very subtle and uninteresting tales they tell are not the most enticing things the stage has to offer, but its the craftsmanship behind Annie Baker's unique comedic writing style that makes the piece so special. She manages to translate simple conversation on to stage in a way that doesn't feel forced or scripted, which I've never seen in a play before.

The full set used in The Flick

Original Off-Broadway cast members Louisa Krause and Matthew Maher transfer to the National with the piece whilst Sam Heron (who plays the minor character of Skylar as well as "The Dreaming Man") and relative newcomer Jaygann Ayeh join the cast. Without a doubt, this group understand what it takes to make a perfect ensemble piece. Despite the fact Krause and Maher have been working together on this show for the past few years now, Ayeh is accepted into this on-stage family with such a warm embrace that I initially questioned if he was one of the original cast members as well. The three of them gel in such an awkwardly beautiful way that you being to wonder if the show would work as well without them; they are the three odd suburbans that this play depicts so well.

Sam Gold's vision for the piece makes it even more accessible for the theatregoer and David Zinn's design adds to that, too. It's no surprise for Gold though, as his previous credits include Fun Home - one of my favourite shows from 2015 - which is also beautiful and unique in its direction. David Zinn's other work also includes Fun Home, as well as Tony-nominated work like Airline Highway. Between them and alongside lighting designer Jane Cox (The Color Purple) and Bray Poor (The Real Thing), this Massachusetts cinema feels as real as the Dorfman Theatre seat that you're sat in.

Yes, The Flick is three hours and forty minutes of inane conversation which is most probably going to bore the majority general theatregoers, but it's Annie Baker's unique style of writing and the original concept of a piece that is entirely based around standard conversation that makes it so special and unmissable. It's a snapshot look at what life is like for the people that we never even think about giving stage time to and it's that which speaks to an audience member most profoundly.

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