Even allowing for the fact that this is a West End filler between Rain Man and Three Days of Rain – a brief shower, perhaps – Well is a bad news addition to the West End list, a self-conscious stand-off between mother and daughter that doesn’t justify its theatrical promotion from a small studio space to the middle of Shaftesbury Avenue.
Whatever real edge the piece might have once had has been blunted in transit from New York, where the author and performance artist Lisa Kron played herself in a solo show – with other people – about issues of health. It’s a rant about allergies and Jewishness, not unlike, in shape and content, Joan Rivers’ stand-up vehicle last year. But, boy, does it push its luck on the “meta-theatrical” front with its endless nudge-nudge at the audience. Pirandello this ain’t, but he’s guilty.
Kron, played deftly and even delightfully by Natalie Casey from Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps on television, is recounting her medical history in an allergy unit, continuously undermined by her own mother, Ann Kron, whose own personal history as a neighbourhood activist has been submerged in hypochondria and general signs of senility.
Funny? You could see how it might be, but not all that easily. I was more sympathetic to Lisa’s problems with staying awake and keeping a focus. And oddly enough, Eve Leigh’s direction, which gained plaudits in the intimate Trafalgar space, militates against comic ding-dong here by leaving Sarah Miles as Ann stranded upstage on a sofa bed, covered in a blanket. Not until Miles gathers herself up for her big speech towards the end does her acting get a grip, and by then you’re just aching for the thing to finish and have done with it.
Interruptions to the play and apologies for “this mess” acquire the wrong sort of reality in this context, and the quartet of actors playing other roles and stage management – Oliver Chris, Jason Rowe, Maggie Service and Zara Tempest-Walters – achieve an accelerating opposite of welcome popularity with every reiteration of the show’s artificiality – shucks, it’s only theatre, and we’re only actors. Gee, we’re only the audience, and we might as well have stayed home.