The Old Vic Theatre
A successful reunion of The Crown Cast?
Run – Finished (November 2019)
Starring – Claire Foy and Matt Smith
Director - Matthew Warchus
Writer - Duncan Macmillan
Set and Costume - Rob Howell
Photo: The Old Vic (Lungs program)
“the world is fucked”
"I could fly to New York and back every day for seven years and still not leave a carbon footprint as big as if I have a child. Ten thousand tonnes of CO2. That’s the weight of the Eiffel Tower. I’d be giving birth to the Eiffel Tower"
Claire Foy and Matt Smith together in a two person play – an easy winner.
But no successful production has ever started with the phrase: ‘What could go wrong?’ The two were stripped back to the bare essentials, exposed in the round on an empty stage, without props, without sound and without any other form of audience entertainment. They did not disappoint. The chemistry between these two is effortless even without thousands of extras or a multi-million-dollar Netflix budget. Claire Foy plays a switched-on PhD student who spouts hilarious and hysterical monologues which cover about 10 side stories before getting to the point. Her erratic tendencies are balanced by her partner (Matt Smith) a cool-headed music maker. Both characters are credibly developed as individuals and nicely paired together, even during heated rows about their relationship and the wider world.
We first meet this unnamed couple in an Ikea queue (they are referred to in the script as M and W). This anonymous stance means that they could be anyone, pressuring the audience to see themselves in the same position. After all, that is what theatre is, a blank canvas onto which we can project our own lives. The main issue tackled is that of the climate crisis and whether having a child is sensible because it’s the worst thing we can do for our CO2 emissions. This play was written in 2011 and the situation has only worsened since, so I can understand Matthew Warchus’s decision to stage this piece. The location also seemed appropriate because I remember fighting my way through Extinction Rebellion protests outside The Old Vic in August.
The explored climate issue is almost too topical. Often with revivals we have to dig deep to find a brief moment that we might learn from, but I think the whole audience should have been taking notes...Every single person in that theatre, even The Crown enthusiasts who were just there to see The Queen sporting some classy dungarees, must have done some serious thinking on the train home.
This play is almost perfect. It ran straight through with no interval, but I didn’t notice until the last twenty minutes. It was somewhat ruined by the rushed ending where their lives sped up to span the years to death. During those last twenty minutes I picked about ten moments where it should have ended. Considering the inconclusive subject matter, there was no need for a rounded up, complete ending. Excluding the last moments, Warchus’s staging is phenomenal, transporting us through M and W’s life without any props or scenery movement (a stage manager’s dream!) In fact, once the stage manager had polished the solar panel set, he or she was probably off duty and would be left to sit in the wings and contemplate the meaning/message/advice of the play. It would take said stage manager the whole of the run to get to the crux of the bottomless pit of speculations on humanity’s destruction of the environment, and our personal responsibility for the chaos surrounding the whole topic. No one has a chance in one sitting.
If you think that ignorance is bliss, then this one probably isn’t for you. Those who came for a Crown reunion most likely left with a headache, but at least gained new perspective on everything (and nothing). A review in The Guardian said, “it is a simple picture of flawed love in a flawed world” and I wholeheartedly agree.