FIRST NIGHT REVIEW: ALPHABETICAL ORDER Hampstead Theatre

PUBLISHED: 13:19 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:07 07 September 2010

Three star rating Michael Frayn s first hit, set in a newspaper cuttings library was named Evening Standard best comedy after transferring from Hampstead Theatre in 1975. Christopher Luscombe s capable revival for the theatre s 50th anniversary celebrati

Three star rating

Michael Frayn's first hit, set in a newspaper cuttings library was named Evening Standard best comedy after transferring from Hampstead Theatre in 1975.

Christopher Luscombe's capable revival for the theatre's 50th anniversary celebrations doesn't quite light the comic touchpaper on a cerebral play that is less about journalism - you never see hacks actually working - and more about competing human impulses for chaos and order.

The ever-expanding cuttings - no different from today's excessive electronic information - are a visual metaphor for the sometimes overwhelming pointlessness of work and the trickiness of categorising things and people who turn out more complex than their labels.

Personal relationships bleed into the workplace as chaotic, absurdly empathetic librarian Lucy tends the paper's waifs; deaf industrial reporter Wally, cheery post boy Geoffrey, patronising features writer Nora and melancholic Arnold who finds work a refuge from an awful marriage.

Bright, determined, OCD Lesley imposes order by sweeping out the human mess as overly-analytical leader writer John - talking in pedantic sub-clauses - wavers between the twin attractions of Lucy's warmth and humour and Lesley's efficiency.

An excellent cast invest these misfits with the right loneliness and longing. But while Imogen Stubbs's Lucy is suitably huggable, she doesn't nail her sharper edges and submerged fury.

Until May 16.

Bridget Galton

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