Funny but flawed people

All New People – Duke  of York’s Theatre, until 28 April 2012

The tone for the evening is set pretty much immediately; the music playing over the PA system is so hipster-y that you spend the first 5 minutes waiting for Zooey Deschanel to emerge from the wings wearing a vintage polka-dot dress whilst eating a cupcake. Also immediately obvious to a jaded theatre-goer is that the audience waiting expectantly is notably younger than those entering Hay Fever, the Noel Coward-revival currently playing 50 metres down St Martins Lane.

Can we go as far as to make rather-too-obvious allusions about a baton changing hands? Well, yes and no, Braff’s ‘All New People’ is his first attempt at writing for the stage and there is a definite sense that he is a little green around the edges; in Coward the jokes slip down easier than the regularly consumed cocktails that punctuate his plays, for Braff the punchlines are clearly influenced by his background in TV, harsher and with a more obvious break for audience laughter. 

However there are signs that, if Braff sticks with it, he could be a genuinely talented new comic voice for the stage. And it is a voice that is desperately needed. Comedy appears to be treading water in the West End; if you strip out the celebrity revivals (Lenny Henry in Comedy of Errors), the old-hands (the annual Ayckbourn) and the reworkings (One Man, Two Guv’nors) then we are left with a rather bare cupboard.

Braff is a talented writer and knows how to craft a gag, either verbal or visual. The play starts with a well-judged physical comedy routine where Braff, about to hang himself, discovers he has nowhere to ash his final cigarette. The rest of the play is stuffed full of decent punchlines, even if it rather too often veers towards the profane but this could be a natural reaction against the restrictions of TV comedy. Braff has a very referential and post-modern style, which judges its target audience astutely. These are characters that clearly exist in the real-world, even if it is a much abstracted one.

<Click here for the full review>  

The Week Ahead

Well after a month out from the blog – mainly spent drinking cocktails and eating wonderful food in Malaysia investigating the diverse cultural scene and eating wonderful food in Malaysia – its time to cast an eye over the weeks ahead. I had a chance to see Cheek by Jowl’s latest production at the Barbican last week, the enjoyably gory Tis Pity She’s a Whore and staged with the inventiveness that comes as standard with a CbyJ production. A review will be up later in the week.

Next week I will be trotting along with the rest of London’s hipsters too see Zach Braff’s first foray into stage plays, All New People. After receiving broadly positive if not ecstatic reviews in America, it has now crossed the pond and looks to be a reliably enjoyable if rather predictable evening.

Also worth pointing out the National Theatre Live series continues with A Comedy of Errors, which will be airing at cinema’s round the country on 01 March. Lenny Henry got very positive reviews on his latest return to the stage and whilst it is not the same experience as watching live, it is a commendable project to bring the theatre to those who do not have the time, money or ability to venture to London at the drop of a hat.