The play begins with a Matt Smith voiceover to a single actress, Natasha, in a beam of light. We are told that she will be reading a monologue for the final scene of a film. In the rare moments when the play is serious, the imagery is excellent and the bathos presented by the repetition of the meaningful speech, followed by the actress’s low-brow sociopathy.
Matt Smith is perfect as the eccentric, borderline autistic film director in search of the perfect light in which to shoot his magnum opus. He is a tortured creative whose dialogue and humour reveals ingenious wit and intellect, coupled with a comical lack of emotional awareness. He voices such genius lines as: “If Leonardo DaVinci had had a producer, the Mona Lisa would have been painted on plywood.”
The humour is remarkable pastiche of acting, arrogance, the film and creative industries. The dialogue is fast-paced and reaches peaks of almost Wildean brilliance at times.
There we come to the issue – Unreachable is 90 minutes of wonderful comedy, made fantastic because it is untrue – it features lines such as:
“He can’t play the part. He’s more maitre d’ than maniac, and he walks like a chicken with low self-esteem”.
The only problem is that the play is longer than 90 minutes – as a consequence, when the final 20 minutes of the play represent a divine and entirely bizarre existential breakthrough, complete with holy light bathing the stage and trees descending from the ceiling as Matt Smith screams his enlightenment to the heavens, it is a discordant and jarring juxtaposition. The audience are taken on a calm and clement journey only to find out that the pilot has in fact bailed out somewhere over the Atlantic.
The establishment of the light as a metaphor for the eponymous unreachable and a manifestation of perfectionism and procrastination is unsettlingly awkward as a consequence and atonal when it actually arrives.
The first three quarters of the play are entirely worthy of five stars and the best comedy play I have seen in a long time. The acting is excellent, the staging is flawless, and the humour cannot be commended enough. The ending is something I’m still not entirely sure I can analyse. It is baffling beyond belief, not conceptually, but as an artistic decision.
All in all, the play is still something that everyone should watch, if only so that someone can explain to me why the ending is what it is.
Running until 6th August
Writer and director: Anthony Neilson
Tickets at http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/unreachable