REVIEW: American Nights The King s Head, Islington

PUBLISHED: 11:23 20 July 2007 | UPDATED: 14:35 07 September 2010

Four star rating Disobedience is the foundation of individuality. So claims the programme for American Nights, an inspired pairing of two US plays. Though the first is by a more established writer, they have e

American Nights

The King's Head, Islington

Four star rating

'Disobedience is the foundation of individuality.' So claims the programme for American Nights, an inspired pairing of two US plays. Though the first is by a more established writer, they have eccentricity and ingenuity in common.

The talented Christopher Durang's 'Dentity Crisis is the curtain opener. In it, the suicidal Jane struggles to make sense of the switching persona of the man in her mother's life - who appears to be her father, brother and grandfather by turns. To complicate matters, her psychologist and his wife have sex changes half-way through the play. The play has a mounting pace that is hard to resist. Nancy Baldwin as the maternal Edith Fromage - a woman who thinks she invented cheese - delights in the absurdist humour. By the end, we are charmed enough to accept that even the doorbell rings at her bidding.

And then comes 2+2+2, in which writer Jorg Tittel gives a first-rate performance as the man who takes on the system. Stuck in a Big Brother nightmare, embodied by Richard E Grant's booming commentary, he falls for the waitress at his local multinational corporation. Together, they challenge the voices in their head by daring to be different.

Part 1984, part Kafka, this fusion of comedy and politics is equally captivating. The use of physical and naturalistic theatre relies on strong ensemble work, which the cast pull off well. It's refreshing to see a show using so many different theatre styles.

Needless to say, such summaries fall short of the playful spirit that gives these scripts their kick. With the help of their directors Sherrill Gow and Alex Helfrecht, Durang and Tittel respectively have created productions that burst with energy. At a time when apathy is everywhere, they manage to criticise Western values while unashamedly embracing life.

Until July 29.

Helena Thompson


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