Laurence Green visits the Royal Court Theatre to see Anthony Neilson’s quirky, Unreachable starring Matt Smith

Matt Smith in Unreachable

The film industry with its egocentric actors and demanding directors has provided much biting satire over the years and the latest play to tackle the subject is Anthony Neilson’s quirky, uneven Unreachable (Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre).

The action centres on a narcissistic and self-destructive young film director called Maxim, struggling to complete his pet project on which he has spent a decade, a grandiose film called Child of Ashes. His obsession with finding exactly the right light in which to shoot is beginning to infuriate those around him. His long –suffering producer, Anastasia believes in his talent and tends to ponder to his ego, but director of photography, Carl, who is having a clandestine sexual tryst with Anastasia is more easily exasperated. Does Maxim’s apparent quest for perfectionism arise from a genuine desire to achieve an elusive moment of beauty, or is he just a poseur with a bloody-minded appetite for mayhem?

This is a production that does not seem fully developed – its content is based on ideas and images the company have been experimenting with in the rehearsal room and this seems all too obvious. Furthermore it is irritating to find stagehands constantly shifting the screens and chest that constitute the set for no apparent reason. All of this makes the story confusing to follow and difficult to engage with. In its favour, though, this satire on artistic pretentiousness that tips over into farce, has bursts of witty one –liners and outrageous slapstick, although I could have done without the expletives and crude sexual references.

Matt Smith (best known for his Doctor Who days) gives a nuanced and understated performance as the neurotic, hyperactive and self-absorbed Maxim, while Amanda Drew convinces as the elegant producer Anastasia and Tamara Lawrence gains our sympathy as an inexperienced actor grappling with the director’s demands. Jonjo O’Neill livens up proceedings, although tending to go over the top, as a flamboyantly unhinged actor, nicknamed ‘The Brute’, who is brought in to retard the shoot’s progress, and good support is given by Richard Pyros as Max’s cinematographer Carl.

But you can’t get away from the fact that this is a disappointing production that fails to cast any new light on an already overworked theme.


Runs at the Royal Court Theatre until Saturday 6 August 2016

Box office: 020 7565 5000

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