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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at Royal Court Theatre


  Sharon Small and Kevin Doyle/ Ph: Keith Pattison

When Jean Paul-Satre famously claimed that hell is other people, he could be forgiven for reaching that cynical conclusion had he made the acquaintance of Nick and Vicky Evans and their pubescent 12-year-old daughter Delilah. They're the middle-class family from Surrey that propels Anya Reiss' debut effort Spur of the Moment, and while not as dysfunctional as some other theatrical families that spring to mind, they're a pretty irritating bunch just the same.
Ms Reiss, who was 17 when she wrote the play, has a well-tuned ear when it comes to verbal sparring – or, more accurately, delivering heavyweight blows in the particular ring of domestic in-fighting she has created.
True, the family members are all in an edgy state of personal crisis. Nick (Kevin Doyle) has recently been made redundant, adding injury to the insult he has heaped on his wife Vicky (Sharon Small) by having had a brief affair with her female boss.
On top of that, Delilah, who's just about to celebrate her 13th birthday, has fallen in love with Daniel (James McArdle), the Evans' 21-year-old lodger who occupies a bedroom opposite Delilah's. To aggravate matters further, Daniel has invited his girlfriend Leonie (Aisling Loftus) to spend a week with him. 
Jangled emotions and frayed nerves fuel Reiss' racy dialogue, with the understandably up-tight Vicky seeming incapable of having a conversation with her family that doesn't spin off into a shouting match.
Just as tiresome and screechy are Delilah's trio of typical schoolgirl friends, while feckless Daniel, having made the mistake of passionately kissing the infatuated Delilah, is incapable of coping with the fallout and the demands made on him by both Delilah and his girlfriend Leonie.
For nearly two hours without an interval the air is alive with the sound of abuse as the cast rushes around designer Max Jones' convincing suburban detached house – almost to the point where you expect farceur Brian Rix to make a token appearance.
And while there is no denying the teenage playwright's precocious talent for accurately capturing the speech patterns of 13-year-old adolescents, the language used by her grown-up protagonists struck me as more lower working-class than middle-class.
Even under severe emotional stress it's doubtful that Nick and Vicky would hurl the kind of foul invective at one another in front of their 12-year-old daughter or allow their 21-year-old lodger to invite his teenage girlfriend to share his room for a week, given the close proximity of his bedroom with Delilah's.
The production, directed by Jeremy Herrin, is terrific, and the performances – notably Shannon Tarbet's debut turn as Deliah and James McArdle as Daniel – are excellent. And there's no question that, for a first play by a 17-year-old, Spur of the Moment is impressive.
But even though it shows more promise than fulfillment, what's really exciting is contemplating her potential and what she's likely to do next.

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