Wednesday, 7 March 2018
Girls & Boys at The Royal Court
It’s quite something for a lone actor to hold an audience’s attention for a whole play and for a playwright to provide the material to make it work. Girls & Boys, Dennis Kelly’s latest offering, now playing at The Royal Court ticks both boxes.
Carey Mulligan, barefoot and dressed in smart trousers and silk shirt, is a tour de force. Affecting an estuary accent, she opens proceedings, almost in the guise of a ballsy, stand-up comedienne who uses her lifetime experiences as material. Her dialogue throughout isn’t so much splattered as deluged with expletives as she treats us to a very witty, frank and rude account of her life thus far. We lean forward, anxious not to miss one snippet from this superb story teller.
Firstly, we learn how she met her husband in the queue to board an Easy Jet flight and took an instant dislike to the man. Following the transformation from dislike to love and marriage, children Leanne and Danny arrive to make her life pretty near perfect, especially as her career trajectory has risen until she ends up a successful documentary maker. In the meantime, her husband’s furniture importing business goes bust. And this appears to be the catalyst for her cosy existence going belly up. On arriving at the point where everything goes catastrophically wrong, the gleam in her eye fades, her upbeat façade crumbles and we long for her not to share with us the horrors she has had to endure.
Every so often Mulligan moves from downstage to Es Devlin’s magnificent set behind the curtain. In the couple’s modern designer home, we are treated to Mulligan, the mother, going about the daily grind of trying to manage her two young, unseen children. The whole set is shrouded in an icy blue light and thanks to the narrative and Lyndsey Turner’s subtle ratcheting up of the tension, we begin to realise that maybe something terrible has happened.
I’m not going to give the game away by letting you in on the plot. Just suffice it to say that this play may be short in length but this doesn’t stop it hitting home with incredible and shocking force.