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The Acid Test

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Anya Reiss’s award-winning Spur of the Moment recounted adolescent growing pains and a broken marriage in a fractious household; two years later, in The Acid Test, three twenty-one- year-old girls in a London flat drink the night away with the father of one of them.

Dana is having a bath when Ruth turns up in a state; she’s split with her boyfriend. Jessica’s dad, Jim, joins the party after “a bit of a spat back at HQ” – mum’s teamed up with the roofer and thrown him out. Dana’s been invited to the Savoy for sex with her boss. She’s thinking about it. Jessica’s working on her resentment towards dad and her insularity from men generally. She may even be a virgin, shock horror.

As in her first play, Reiss displays a real gift for high quality sitcom dialogue, and she can effortlessly translate how she and her middle-class, privately educated friends behave directly to the stage. Jim is a critical adult, but he also wants to join in.

While it’s not so startlingly conceived, or indeed executed, as Spur, it’s still a much better than disappointing second play. And like Polly Stenham, Reiss clearly has a future. This is a long night of the soul, with diversions, as Dana scoots off for a tryst she regrets and Ruth disappears when the boyfriend jumps of a bus shelter and ends up in hospital.

Jim, played with dapper charm and a well-observed modicum of “dad dancing” cringe factor by Denis Lawson, keeps the party going and the drinks flowing. And Simon Godwin’s production is a beauty, even when the snap, crackle and pop inevitably fizzles and phuts with the vodka intake, the spliffs and the enveloping gloom of pre-dawn anomie.

Lydia Wilson has occasional problems keeping the cipher-ish Jessica “alive” on the stage, but Vanessa Kirby as blonde bombshell Dana and Phoebe Fox as the faintly off-kilter, comical Ruth are both exceptional, and utterly believable.

Designer Paul Wills’s lavishly appointed first floor flat starts with a corridor of outside doors as you enter the theatre and explodes in pinks, reds and piles of cushions inside. It’s a cocoon for spoilt young ladies. And dad’s paying.


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