CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

John Malkovich directed Good Canary opens at Rose Theatre, Kingston - review

PUBLISHED: 16:15 23 September 2016 | UPDATED: 16:15 23 September 2016

Harry Lloyd & Freya Mavor (Photo by Mark Douet)

Harry Lloyd & Freya Mavor (Photo by Mark Douet)

Photo by Mark Douet

Great excitement at the Rose Theatre, Kingston as Good Canary, written by Zach Helm and directed by John Malkovich, begins its UK run

As the lights dimmed on the first night, Malkovich slipped into a seat in the back row of the stalls. How incredibly nerve wracking it must be as the director, or indeed the writer, to finally see your production go ‘live’.

And full of life this production is - it is a full on, jaw dropping, impeccably acted, smartly directed, visual feast of a play with a truly fabulous cast. Freya Mavor (who was in Skins) is on top form as the angst ridden, intelligent, compulsive Annie whose drug addiction has got so out of control that her life hangs in the balance. Mavor is totally mesmerising in the role - frenetic, wild and ultra-confident when she is high on speed, and clawing, helpless and desperate when she can’t get her hands on the stuff.

The play begins with some rather heavy information on a screen about the plight of canaries in coal mines and other grim stats about death before Annie appears sitting in a cubicle; she retches into a bin then stuffs more pills into her mouth. The stage then smoothly transforms into a cafe scene where Annie studies the inside of her boot until her husband Jack, appears. A fast exchange of banter follows and immediately we see how sharp Helm’s dialogue is - within 5 minutes we have a really good insight into the couple’s relationship, or so we think.

Jack, (played by the brilliant Harry Lloyd), appears the ever-patient husband to his complex wife. He tries to coax her to eat a little, calms her fears, and makes attempts to slow her down when he realises she is high. As he excitedly clutches a rave New York Times review for the debut novel that might make his name, things become tense as Annie strangely, almost cruelly, seems dismissive of the critic’s positive comments.

The action then unfurls in fabulous, unabated technicolour, with gorgeous, ever-changing sets created by designer Pierre-Francois Limbosch. Onto three large moveable screens he projects exteriors and interiors of New York scenes in a mix of photographs and illustrations. It is vibrant and realistic and great washes of ever changing, dazzling colour seem to mimic the uncontrollable mishmash of fireworks in Annie’s addled mind. In the scene where she cleans the apartment in a state of drug-induced hyper-activity, the windows miraculously change shape as she tries to clean them. Eventually they fill to the brim with tumbling pills as Annie’s hallucinations take hold of her.

The whole first act whips along like a runaway train and characterisation is brilliant, perhaps most fabulously in the party scene at the home of a top publisher where Jack is desperate to secure a new contract. Annie, however, is having none of the bullsh**. She entertains herself with copious amounts of booze, engages in some challenging but revealing conversation with the publisher’s wife, and finally annihilates the males present in a torrent of abuse which is amazingly lucid for someone off their face on narcotics.

The second act, as is often the case, cannot quite keep pace with the brilliance of the first. Scrap the interval, I sometimes want to shout, as a play’s second half’s inevitably needs to explain things or drive home a moral message and can often slow the pace. Having said that, the second act in Good Canary is intensely moving and, without giving too much away, Mavor pulls another stunning performance out of the hat. Just when we think she must have drawn used every ounce of energy, she digs deep and conveys with utter conviction the desperation of an addict.

A fabulous play with fine acting and possibly some of the best set designs I have ever seen. Unmissable too due to the inventive, gripping direction by John Malkovich. As the audience rose for a standing ovation, he had modestly slipped away. Having seen the play receive great acclaim in previous runs in Paris and Mexico, he can surely now rest assured that it will also go down a storm in the UK.

Until October 8 at the Rose Theatre, Kingston; 020 8174 0090;

More from Surrey Life

Thu, 10:52

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wed, 16:05

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tue, 10:53

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tue, 10:47

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tue, 10:41

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Mon, 14:32

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Mon, 12:56

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Mon, 12:13

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search