Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1
Opened 7 February, 2001

Simon Gray's latest play is well written and staged but an infuriating dollop of complacent, self-aggrandising middle-class claptrap.

There's a shorthand term for the kind of English bourgeois drama that's most rarefied and self-regarding but of least interest to the rest of the country (or the world): "adultery in NW3". Japes is literally about adultery in NW3! It follows novelist Mikey, wife Neats (Anita) and his brother Jason (Japes), Neats' real passion, through 27 years in the same room in Hampstead. But why?

What do we care that Jason has more talent as a writer but less self-discipline? What do we care who owns which half of their architect daddy's house? What do we care who's the father of Neats's daughter? We don't, because these characters exist in their own little world, and their importance to each other utterly fails to cross the footlights. Even when Mikey sounds off about modern language and culture, it's so obviously author Gray pontificating through him that it insults our intelligence. Jasper Britton gives a magnificent performance, which is much more than the character of Mikey deserves, and Toby Stephens as Japes is an impressive arsenal of acting techniques and devices. But the play is simply an affront to any contemporary audience.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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