The Victorian in the Wall

  • Theatre
  • West End
Critics' choice
0 Love It
1/5
© Ben Dowden

Matthew Steer (Elms)

2/5
© Ben Dowden

Melanie Wilson (Fi)

3/5
© Ben Dowden

Matthew Steer (Elms), Will Adamsdale (Guy), Jason Barnett (Fortunately Maybe)

4/5
© Ben Dowden

Matthew Steer (Elms), Will Adamsdale (Guy), Jason Barnett (Fortunately Maybe)

5/5
© Ben Dowden

Melanie Wilson (Lou)

School is out at the Royal Court for summer. Well, late spring. In the interregnum between ex-artistic director Dominic Cooke’s departure and the commencement of Vicky Featherstone’s reign next month, in pops this eccentric and very un-Sloane Square comedy from Perrier-winning performer Will Adamsdale.

The set-up is pure sitcom: in a pokey Victorian flat – the walls of which are delineated by some masking tape on the black studio floor – Adamsdale plays Guy, a feckless thirtysomething writer whose life and career has declined into a fug of self-absorbed neuroses and rampant procrastination.

In a great piece of casting, performer Melanie Wilson – best known for her own cryptic, sound and light based experimental shows – plays Fi, Guy’s long suffering girlfriend. Fi leaves him in charge of the flat for a week while a ‘knock-through’ is made between the flat’s kitchen and living room in order to create a ‘breakfast nook’.

Things don’t go to plan: Chris Branch’s Pina Bausch-loving builder uncovers Mr Elms (Matthew Steer), a ‘bona-fide Victorian’ gent who has, for whatever reason, been living in Guy’s wall this last century or so. This, as it turns out, is another fine excuse for Guy to avoid doing any work. Soon he’s probing Elms over his life story and introducing him to the joys of ‘The Wire’.

It’s completely mad, in other words, but with a sprinkling of jolly songs, knockabout bonhomie, tender heart and abundance of good gags – all essentially directed at middle-class narcissism – it’s the sort of pleasingly larky evening you rarely get at this address.

There are moments when it does feel a little laddish, but Wilson is a great foil to the boys, her ethereal presence an antidote to the rowdiness of Guy and his crew of (possibly imaginary) blokes. Credit too to the invisible hand of director Lindsey Turner, a woman you will never see a photo of, who rarely helms anything that’s less than hilarious.

By Andrzej Lukowski

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