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Off the King’s Road review at Jermyn Street, London – ‘unchallenging and uneven’

Scen from Off the Kings Road at Jermyn Street Theatre, London. Photo: Pamela Raith Scen from Off the Kings Road at Jermyn Street Theatre, London. Photo: Pamela Raith
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This gentle new play by Neil Koenigsberg features a baffling, bumbling turn from a genuine Hollywood A-lister. Jeff Bridges pops up three times in the form of a Skype call in the guise of psychiatrist Dr Kozlowski.

Receiving its UK premiere after two critically acclaimed productions in the US, Off the Kings Road is set in a hotel in London, where widower Matt Browne decides to stay on his first holiday since his wife’s death. He has a specific agenda in mind but doesn’t count on interference from the kindly, resident next-door-neighbour or the hotel manager with a flair for matchmaking.

Bridges’ pre-recorded pieces feature an unfettered performance – he sounds like he’s sucking on a boiled sweet much of the time – but the device, while technically sound, is dramatically clunky and features the usual awkward pauses that can appear when live-action is mixed with recorded content. Here, it can just about pass as time-delay but the interludes are ponderous interruptions to the central story.

The writing throughout is fairly unchallenging, its meandering, almost facile dramatic style is peppered with stereotypes. The experienced cast, including Michael Brandon as Browne and Cherie Lunghi as the gentle but insistent Ellen Mellman, are entertaining enough but the genuinely sensitive moments are reserved for the final scene. Claire Lyth’s set creates an instantly recognisable, generic hotel room, but Alan Cohen’s uneven direction coupled with the fragmented script indicate that this play would probably be better served on screen rather than on stage.

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Verdict
Unchallenging comedy drama, well-performed but unevenly directed
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