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Did the critics reach a consensus on Unreachable?

Anthony Neilson's new play, devised in rehearsals, premiered at the Royal Court on Friday

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Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage

★★★★

"You never know quite what to expect from a new play by writer and director Anthony Neilson. What I hadn't anticipated, however, was a comedy quite as broad and laugh-aloud funny."

"But the play's sudden swerve from such energetic humour into a more sombre, upsetting close feels unearned. It is beautifully worked and wonderfully staged, but more predictable and less convincing than anything that has gone before."

"The journey to that point is an immense pleasure and the performances are uniformly excellent. Matt Smith isn't taken far out of his comfort zone by the neurotic, hyperactive and self-absorbed Maxim, but minute to minute he shows what a fine and sensitive actor he is."

Michael Billington, The Guardian

★★★

"Although Neilson's play effectively makes the point that the movie business is a madhouse, it suffers from allowing one particular lunatic to take over the asylum."

"Halfway through, Neilson introduces the wildly disruptive Ivan, and a character who may have been fun to create in the rehearsal room unbalances the play."

"The problem is that the play never quite recovers from Ivan's eruption, and a sprightly first act gives way to an over-contrived second. This is not to deny that there are closely observed performances from Amanda Drew, Richard Pyros, and Genevieve Barr."

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

★★★★

"The production feels as though it hasn't yet bedded down, but that's an inevitable consequence of Neilson's impromptu methods, and the unevenness doesn't stop it being packed with cracking one-liners and bursts of outrageous slapstick."

"Smith gives a nuanced and understated reading of the absurdities of this jumpy fantasist, and there's skilful support from Tamara Lawrance as an inexperienced actor grappling with his demands."

"Jonjo O'Neill's performance is a glorious amalgam of sweaty gestures and ludicrous assertions that threaten to make both the film and the play collapse."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut

★★★★

"Though there's an agreeably livewire air to it – particularly from the winningly childlike, erratic Smith – it also feels a bit like a teatime appropriate sitcom."

"In the glorious last couple of minutes, designer Chloe Lamford spunks her entire set budget on an ending that filled me with actual, genuine wonder."

"Jonjo O'Neill feels key to Unreachable because it's hard to imagine another play would survive him doing this. Genuinely anarchic, almost kamikaze, the destabilising effect of his performance feels like a virtue: the rest of the cast stop to stare at him as he hits full rant."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

★★

"At the Royal Court, supposedly the flagship of new writing, you might expect something that catches the febrile mood of the moment. Instead, Anthony Neilson has devised and directed a play about an obsessive film-maker which, entertaining gags aside, strikes me as a perfect waste of time and space."

"Squint and you can glimpse a play, as barely perceptible as Maxim's sought-after luminosity – but, at two hours, the alliance of form and content looks like a shot-gun marriage of convenience."

"Note to Smith: you've done "alternative" now please fulfil your huge promise and give us Hamlet."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage

★★★★

"Unreachable is intelligent and witty about art and ego, beauty and elusiveness. When it's good it's really very good – smart, sharp, hilarious – but it's also a little choppy and abrupt."

"Tamara Lawrance is superb as Natasha, Richard Pyros is wonderfully oily as Carl, while Genieve Barr brings warmth to her scenes with Ivan, taming him."

"At the moment there's an on-the-cusp quality to a lot of it, an almost-but-not-quite-thereness. Which in so many ways is fitting, but this does not stop it from being frustrating. With another few days in the rehearsal room this could have been quite spectacular."


Unreachable runs at the Royal Court until 6 August 2016.

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