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Private Jokes, Public Places review at New End London

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Sometimes in Oren Safdie’s play set during graduation at a New York architecture school, the making of the point gets in the way of the point being made.

The architecture student turned playwright wants to highlight the artifice in art and that too much intellectualising can remove architecture and culture in general away from the world it is meant to reflect and serve.

To do this, a professor, Colin, and a visiting lecturer, Erhardt, judge a graduation show featuring the work of idealistic scholar Margaret. But their – admittedly deliberately comical – philosophical dissection of every aspect of poor Margaret’s work is so complex that the audience is inclined to turn off completely and let the play wash over them.

It is incredibly tricky to turn comically pretentious dialogue into something that at the same time is accessible and entertaining for an audience and here Safdie fails.

That’s not to say that, at the end of the play, his point hasn’t been made. It has, with no little thanks to excellent performers working from within his well-crafted characters.

MJ Kang allows Margaret to be both headstrong and deflated as she is crushed by the racist misogyny of her lecturers. Robert East makes Colin boorish without being boring and Colin Starkey’s Erhardt is a comical counterpoint and a touchstone for the audience.

And, considering this is a play about architects, Dermot Hayes’ set is appropriately evocative.

Production Information

New End, London, November 7-December 10

Oren Safdie
Leon Rubin
New End Theatre in association with Snug Harbor Productions, Ergo Entertainment and Maximum Entertainment Productions
Colin Starkey, Robert East, Michael Gilroy, M J Kang
Running time

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