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The Show in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens review at Unicorn Theatre, London – ‘like Beckett for kids’

Nigel Barrett and Riad Richie in The Show in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens at the Unicorn Theatre, London. Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Ignore the title. This is a show in which so much happens that it’s hard to know where to start. Is it a metatheatrical comment on the boringness of theatre? Is it a satire of bureaucracy and the jobsworth mentality? Or is it one great metaphor for existential ennui? Or, maybe, all of these?

Created and directed by Jetse Batelaan, the ultra-clever play was written 13 years ago. It’s now being performed by Nigel Barrett (one half of Nigel and Louise) and Riad Richie, in place of the original devising cast members Martin Hofstra and Rene Geerlings.

The Show in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens plays out as a series of inter-connected sketches. In one, a security guard (Barrett) refuses an actor/pianist (Richie) access to the stage. Every time the younger man tries to make it past an arbitrary line on the floor, the older one barks at him to get back. Why? Because “those are the rules” and the guard is simply “doing his job”.

In another scene, both performers join together in a fruitless search for “the next moment”. Trapped in a cycle of “now”, “the present moment” and a “dead moment”, the future alludes them.

Both Barrett – who does a stellar impersonation of a lettuce-munching tortoise – and Richie have mastered the offbeat humour of the piece. This is absurdist theatre exactly as it should be: surface level hilarity very thinly veiling some soul-crushing truths. If there’s a play for Britain circa March 2019, this is it.

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Metatheatrical two-hander that’s like Beckett for kids, only with better gags