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Realism review at Royal Lyceum Theatre

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Spending an hour and half inside a young man’s head as he spends a day dozing in bed can be tough – especially when it is as surreal as Henry’s, the main protagonist in Anthony Neilson’s exceptionally original play.

Miriam Buether’s wonderfully detailed set depicts his flat as a sandy expanse with his bed centre stage but the rest of his life, his kitchen appliances, television and sofa, strewn about like some sort of bizarre mind map. It is accompanied by strange ambient sounds from composer Nick Powell.

That seemingly random, erratic quality is mirrored in his thoughts as he ruminates mostly on his latest break up and inability to hold onto a relationship but also about the state of world around him, ranging from him winning a debate on Question Time regarding the smoking ban, to watching his loved ones flee Israeli warplanes.

The script is laugh out loud funny and lively. The dance routine surrounding his altercation with the gas board and the manifestation of his guilt at being rude to a cold caller are hilarious. Of course, it was his lazy, anarchic cat – Paul Blair in a big furry suit – that raised the most laughs.

Stuart McQuarrie could not look a more typical bloke if he had been dreamed up by a marketing group and this is the play’s absolute strength. While all around him is the madness of his dreams, Henry is a bog-standard, realistic guy, giving his balls a scratch and sniff, examining the loo paper after a wipe – the subtle natural touches round of this piece of almost genius theatre.

Production Information

Royal Lyceum Theatre, August 14-19

Anthony Neilson
Edinburgh International Festival, National Theatre of Scotland
Paul Blair, Louise Ludgate, Shauna Macdonald, Stuart McQuarrie, Sandy Neilson, Jan Pearson, Matthew Pidgeon
Running time
1hr 30mins

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