Evening at the Talk House at the National Theatre
Strange, surreal and vaguely sinister, American actor/dramatist Wallace Shawn’s new drama opened last night at the National Theatre’s Dorfman Theatre but unfortunately, it rather failed to impress.
The premise is fairly simple: the old team behind an unpopular play reunite at their old haunt, a private club named the Talk House, for the tenth anniversary. Smug writer Robert (Josh Hamilton) opens the play with a monologue setting the scene (delivered with a few hiccups here and there), and relates that he has given up on theatre for a more lucrative career as trashy TV writer. Also in attendance is Jane (Sinead Matthews), a failed actress turned waitress and, rather unwelcomely, Dick (Wallace Shawn) a washed-up old actor staying at the Talk House to avoid another beat down from his “friends.”
At the beginning it seems the play will mostly concern itself with nostalgia, change and whether the old is better than the new, but soon the audience is clued in to the fact that this play doesn’t take place in our world entirely. Many of the characters reveal themselves to have been involved in something called the “Murder Programme”, which uses “targeting” to rid society of various undesirables, regarded as useless. This process is kept rather vague, and though Shawn’s plays often excel in their surrealism, in this case the play suffers for it.
Performances fall somewhere between adequate and lacklustre, and none of the characters are interesting or endearing enough to really hook the audience. As for the story, it is largely indirect, full of a lot of filler and very little real, meaningful content. What little there is is often confusing and, though it would be tempting to blame this on Shawn’s uniquely odd style, here it is less about the audience missing the deeper meaning and more about there not really being a deeper meaning to begin with.
There are a few laughs to be had though, and here and there a piece of interesting discourse, but by and large the play is a rather dull affair that feels somewhat unrealised.
Evening at the Talk House is on at the National Theatre from 25th November 2015 until 30th March 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch a trailer for Evening at the Talk House here: