Short of the Mark: UNREACHABLE at the Royal Court

I adore anything that has started its life at the Royal Court - most recently being X - but for the first time ever, I was disappointed by something I saw, yet captivated by it all at once: Matt Smith in Unreachable, which is currently playing in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, is a "messterpiece" in its own right. Granted, I saw the show on its final preview performance, which was a unique experience
in itself, so I can't judge the piece properly just from that, but I can still share some sort of opinion to give you an idea of what it was like.

Unreachable is about a failing film production company led by Matt Smith's character. The play opens with a very powerful and moving monologue given by Tamara Lawrence - perhaps the best moment of the entire play - before we're thrown into this very empty sound stage. The rest of the play explores the troubles that Matt Smith's character faces when trying to create his sci fi movie on a limited budget and with a wild imagination: it's a total recipe for disaster. Romances blossom and hilarity ensues and on the most part it's a very enjoyable evening, but there was just something missing for me.

Amanda Drew and Tamara Lawrance star in Unreachable at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

I also really enjoyed how the performance was presented as a preview: both Anthony Neilson who wrote the play and the Royal Court's artistic director Vicky Featherstone came out onto the stage to explain that this was a very intense and limited preview process and that the actors will have scripts in hand with them and that they're also welcome to emails from audience members offering suggestions for improvement. This immediately made the show even more funny, especially when an actor would suddenly stop in the throws of a scene and everyone would laugh because they needed help with a line. It actually made the play really much more fun and is an idea that is so good, it feels like it should be written in to every performance.

Richard Pyros and the show's main man himself Matt Smith in Unreachable

The main thing that I struggled to be on board with was the structure of the piece though. The show did simply feel like a string of different scenes - most of which exploring some very basic and typical themes when it comes to love - and it had no sort of coherent structure. The piece ends with major tragedy in fact and while it's a touching last five minutes (with an incredible and beautiful ending, mind you), it felt so random and so disconnected from the piece because it didn't match in the slightest. Somehow, I felt like I was watching a load of random scenes from two different plays be mixed together for the sake of mixing them together and this sort of cross-genre piece just didn't work for me.

The performances given were sublime though. I find Matt Smith very difficult to like as an actor, but he gave a pleasant performance in the show and certainly pleased my friend Em who is a massive fan of his. As I previously mentioned, Tamara Lawrance gave the best performance of the show in my opinion and her comedic timing was so good, I feel like it was her acting skill that defines the term "comedic timing"; there was something so natural and witty about it that got me every time. Genevieve Barr also gives a wonderful performance with a character that I really warmed to and it was nice to see a deaf actress playing a character that - on the most part - was never defined by the fact that they were deaf.

Genevieve Barr with co-star Jonjo O'Neill in Unreachable

Unreachable is a bit of a mess when you look at it from the perspective of typical theatrical dramas, but what it is good at being is an accessible and enjoyable piece of comedy no matter how strong the story structure may well be. From the show's minimal set to its relatable and natural humour, it's a piece of modern comedy theatre that's closer to a series of standup comedy sketches than a play and it will help pave the way for part-improvised comedic theatre in the future.

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