Off the Kings Road at the Jermyn Street Theatre
Opening this week in the Jermyn Street Theatre, Neil Koenigsberg’s tale of life and death, losing the ones we love and our relationships along the way, portrays one man’s struggle with becoming a widower in Off the Kings Road.
Directed by Alan Cohen, the stirling cast draw the crowd into the surprisingly amusing story. Koenigsberg’s witty script is expertly delivered by the small, five-actor team who add a touch of humour to the sorrowful tale. In the leading role, Michael Brandon plays the anxious Matt Browne who is trying to emotionally recover from the death of his wife six months previously by visiting London, their favourite city. Centring around his turmoil, we watch as he tries to continue living and to accept that he doesn’t have to “have all the answers”.
Delivering the majority of the best lines is Cherie Lunghi as Ellen Mellman, the only other resident at the small London hotel that is the setting, and something of a cat enthusiast. Also a widow, Mellman is a cliché, talking almost exclusively of her cat Christina. Despite it being a well trodden source for jokes it is amusing nonetheless. Luke Pitman portrays the overzealous hotel clerk Freddie who takes Matt under his wing, whilst Diana Dimitrovici plays Sheena, his unlikely Russian prostitute. Sheena’s straight performance, vacant of much of the humour of other scenes, provides a solid grounding for Koenigsberg to explore the play’s key emotions, guilt, sorrow and loneliness.
The final cast member performs through a pre-recorded skype message: as Matt struggles he finds himself increasingly calling his psychiatrist Dr. Kozlowshi, portrayed by Jeff Bridges. These messages are played through the TV, which is central to the staging, and whilst the concept is clever, Bridges’ performance convincing, and the lines believable there is still a disjointed sense about it. Sadly, the technique just isn’t quite as good as it should be. The rest of the staging (around the TV) is simple but clever, making good use of the small and intimate theatre setting. However, the lights and music are used somewhat in excess, often becoming distracting instead of adding to the mood and effect of the scene.
Overall, this is a very clever and witty play, exposing the impact of others upon us and the weight and strain of guilt through Matt Browne’s turbulent holiday.
Off the Kings Road is on at the Jermyn Street Theatre from 1st until 25th June 2016, for further information or to book visit here.