Theatre review: Spur of the Moment

Posted on: 06 August 2010 by Mark O'haire

As astute insight in a middle-class family on the verge of self-destruction is provided by Anya Reiss in her accomplished debut play Spur of the Moment (Royal Court Upstairs), directed by Jeremy Herrin.

While Delilah and her friends are upstairs, singing along to High School Musical, ogling the lodger and planning her thirteenth birthday party, her parents Vicky and Nick are downstairs throwing verbal grenades at one another, noisily raking over a relationship that has hit the rocks – Nick had a four-year affair with his female boss who then fired him and Vicky can’t forgive him and belittles him all the time.

The couple in fact are too absorbed to notice their daughter’s distress. The only person she can turn to for solace is their 21-year-old tenant who can’t hit it off when his long term girlfriend moves in with him, and he starts to pay more attention to Delilah, and when feelings run out of control they begin to exchange passionate kisses.

It is hard to believe that Anya Reiss was only seventeen when she wrote this play for it shows a sophistication and understanding of parenting, growing-up and the moment when a youthful crush borders on sexual temptation that many playwrights twice her age have failed to express in dramatic terms. Indeed this look at the distance between close family relations and a young girl on the brink of adolescence has a freshness and honesty about it that makes it totally engaging. Director Jeremy Herrin had the imaginative concept of staging the piece on what resembles a large dolls house set, designed by max Jones, that lets us see simultaneously into each room inhabited by this warring family and making us feel like fascinated but invisible witness to the events taking place.

Shannon Tarbet, in her first professional stage role, gives an astonishing assured performance as the pre-teen Delilah, a girl whose experiences in this unhappy home lead her to become more attracted to the lodger, played with firm conviction by James McArdle. Kevin Doyle and Sharon Small as her feuding parents, Nick and Vicky Evans, also make a strong impression.

In all then a disturbing but acidly funny study in domestic disharmony and unattainable adolescent sexual longing.

By Laurence Green

Where: Royal Court Theatre

When: Plays until August 21

Box Office: 020 7565 5000

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