Unreachable

Theatre, Experimental
0 Love It
Save it
 (© Matthew Humphrey)
1/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Matt Smith (Maxim)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
2/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Matt Smith (Maxim)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
3/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Richard Pyros (Carl)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
4/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Matt Smith (Maxim), Richard Pyros (Carl)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
5/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Tamara Lawrance (Natasha)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
6/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Matt Smith (Maxim), Amanda Drew (Anastasia)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
7/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Richard Pyros (Carl), Matt Smith (Maxim)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
8/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Richard Pyros (Carl), Matt Smith (Maxim)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
9/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Richard Pyros (Carl), Matt Smith (Maxim)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
10/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Richard Pyros (Carl), Genevieve Barr (Eva)

11/17
 (© Matthew Humphrey)
12/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Amanda Drew (Anastasia), Tamara Lawrance (Natasha)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
13/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Richard Pyros (Carl), Genevieve Barr (Eva)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
14/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Tamara Lawrance (Natasha), Matt Smith (Maxim)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
15/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Richard Pyros (Carl), Genevieve Barr (Eva)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
16/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Richard Pyros (Carl), Matt Smith (Maxim)

 (© Matthew Humphrey)
17/17
© Matthew Humphrey

Jonjo O’Neill (Ivan)

Matt Smith stars in this intoxicatingly chaotic comedy

Interview: Matt Smith on Brexit, Radiohead, and 'career suicide'

Matt Smith, the star of Anthony Neilson's new play 'Unreachable', has described it as 'career suicide'. Presumably he was joking, but word from early previews suggested he wasn't wrong, with the cast apparently having to go on script-in-hand and prompt each other in early performances.

Yet whatever freaky magic Neilson works in his notorious improv-based creative process had certainly kicked in by 'Unreachable' press night. If anything this comedy about a bunch of dysfunctional weirdos trying to make a film is one of the more straightforward plays programmed at the Court in recent years.

Maxim (Smith) is a precious, unworldly film director whose last film won the Palme D'Or. He has been given a substantial budget to make its follow up, a bleak dystopian drama. However, he seems to be rather ambivalent, being rather more fixated on trying to capture the perfect light. But he's not finding it, and as ‘Unreachable’ starts he's declared to his cynical, long-suffering producer Anastasia (Amanda Drew) that he wants to switch the shoot from digital to film, at enormous expense and complication.

‘Unreachable’ is a play about the creative process; it may even be that it's a play about the creation of ‘Unreachable’, with Maxim a proxy for Neilson, and Maxim's absurd, quixotic methods and goals a cinematic equivalent of Neilson’s famously perverse process. 

Which may sound a bit up its own arse, but a bit of pretension is welcome in a funny, well-performed comedy that is, if anything, just a splash too cosy. Though there’s an agreeably livewire air to it – particularly from the winningly childlike, erratic Smith – it also feels a bit like a teatime appropriate sitcom.

Or it does until it gets an almighty shot in the arm just before the interval with the arrival of Jonjo O'Neill's unstable leading man Ivan, aka The Brute. It is a remarkable and ridiculous performance: full-bore, fourth wall-breaking, sweat-saturated, like the ungodly, platinum wigged, Eurotrash love child of ‘Blackadder’s character Lord Flashheart and Will Ferrell’s nefarious Zoolander villain Mugatu. But more mental than that sounds. And those were cameos: he’s a lead character. 

It’s hard to exactly describe without getting excessively wanky, but O’Neill feels key to ‘Unreachable’ because it’s hard to imagine another play would survive him doing this. Genuinely anarchic, almost kamikaze, the destabilising effect of his performance feels like a virtue: the rest of the cast stop to stare at him as he hits full rant, most of them actively corpsing (or appearing to). There is the sense that he has hit upon a style of performance so fanatically intense that this improvised play about the elusiveness of artistry must bend to accommodate it. If the light exists, it’s inside him, and in the glorious last couple of minutes when designer Chloe Lamford spunks her entire set budget on an ending that filled me with actual, genuine wonder.

By: Andrzej Lukowski

Posted:

To improve this listing email: feedback@timeout.com

Average User Rating

4.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|5
2 people listening
1 of 1 found helpful
Tastemaker

It's really hard to write a review of this play as ultimately it left me quite confused - was it comedy? satire or serious? I've thought about it a lot and I still don't know but it was a brilliant thing to see!


The cast is tiny - 6 people and some of the content is really harrowing It's told in a hysterically sell obsessed and indulgent way which means you really feel you know the characters individually and their relationships with each other. The v low maintenance set which still somehow manages to create a feeling of movement and chaos is clever. 


We bought the tickets primarily because of Matt Smith but Jonjo O'Neill and Tamara Lawrance easily match and even possibly outplay him. 


This play was really unusual and very thought provoking about what the nature of creativity and art is, what the role of ego, identity, history, economics and relationships are in film delivery. Some might find it self referential, self indulgent claptrap - I personally loved how much it surprised and intrigued me.

1 of 1 found helpful

One of the most involving and deliciously eccentric and thrilling nights I have ever spent in a theatre. A conspiracy between actors, dramatist and the audience moving towards a fixed point but the journey will differ every night as the actors and playwright playfully spar with the text. The night I saw it the actors were still reading parts off a freshly minted script but this played perfectly to the uncertainty of what was unfolding. It is something they may keep during the run as the play evolves and reacts to the audience and what the actors uncover after each performance. Although the reliably magnificent Jonjo O'Neill steals the play with his hilarious Klaus Kinski homage, it's clear the real force holding things together is Matt Smith who is powerfully enigmatic and delivers a quietly compelling performance.The other cast members are also strong and play beautifully off each other. A treat for lovers of great acting and who are willing to take the plunge. A real highlight of 2016 theatre so far. Rush to get tickets if you can. I will certainly be going again to see how the play evolves over its run. 

1 of 1 found helpful
Tastemaker

Keeps you guessing the whole way through. It's excruciating in a really funny but dark and fragile way. It is clear that at times even the actors are perplexed by the script (which sometimes they hold onto as the director keeps changing it) and can't help but laugh with disbelief with the audience. Probably one of the most original plays I've seen in a long time... And is confusing (what is this light?) and very involving... Some of the really funny bits is actually really disturbing... All in all - if u get a chance to see this, do it! No guarantee that you will see what I just did though!

Tastemaker

A script devised in rehearsals. Right, well, this could go one of two ways; be a Mike Leigh-esque classic or some sort of conflicted a-level piece. What it actually creates is a relatively straight forward, gentle narrative, housing some caricatures and some truly outlandish characters.


A directors quest for the perfect light (Terrence Malick perhaps...?) allows us to enjoy the ups and downs of the movie business. His journey is shared with a directors closest companions, his producer, his DOP and, of course, his leads. Matt Smith plays the most 'normal' character, driving the story along (and you could tell a lot of the audience were there for him). The rest of the cast give very good performances, particualrly the underplayed Tamara Lawrance who helps steady the ship amid the madness. 


When Jonjo O'Neill turns up, everything gets a little crazy. Some sort of Lord Flashheart, Chris Morris, Malcolm tucker hybrid spewing nonsensical, flowery language, tarred with profanity and insults aimed at pretty much everyone. This is the kind of part a drama student would love to play but gets told that, 'parts like that don't exist in the real world of acting'. Well, apparently they do. While very funny and brilliantly played it is all a bit bizarre. Combine this with a strange relationship with the fourth wall where the actors sometimes break character and talk to you with seemingly no cohesive convention in place, and you're left a little confused as to the point. I have no idea what this play was trying to say. But I did enjoy it. It was funny, well performed and moved along at a good pace. The bare set worked although I don't know quite why each set change seemed so laboured and slow. 


I like what the Royal Court tries to do with new writing and ideas in theatre. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. This works but has no voice.


Indeed, I enjoyed this play/production immensely. I laughed a lot. All of the performances were excellent. The denouement is somewhat overly-signalled and arrives in a strange rush, but heck, this is basically comedy so I suppose all that structural stuff should be forgiven in favour of the laughs and performances.