The Unbuilt City
King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 8th June 2018
“The set remains simple and undistracting from the performers’ discussion of love and life”
Jonah (Jonathan Chambers) has already arrived in the chilly Brooklyn Heights townhouse of Claudia (Sandra Dickinson), and is in full charm mode as he attempts to elicit stories of her privileged upbringing and her wealthy sponsorships of artists and poets and other creative people she’s ‘collected’ throughout her life. He is here as a representative of a university which is extremely interested in some work Claudia is rumoured to own. He’s hoping to convince her to allow him to at least view her private art collection so he can try to persuade her to sell it, and then use the money he earns to allow him the freedom to write and live the life he wants.
Right now, as she drifts towards old age, Claudia seems at her most likely to part with her treasures, so evoking nostalgia seems the perfect method to strike a deal. But Claudia hasn’t survived the last few decades by being naive or easily charmed, her enigmatic past may reveal secrets, but her price will include Jonah surrendering many of his own. It’s never quite certain if the sharing of life stories and intimate anecdotes are meant to level the field of negotiations, or create some sort of friendship, but the mutual appreciation falters on more than one occasion despite the whiskey.
This is the European premiere of Keith Bunin’s play and both actors strongly bring his work to life being both confident and convincing onstage. I enjoy the way sassy Claudia can switch between a total lack of regret over events long ago and a more defensive tone regarding other past decisions. The set remains simple and undistracting from the performers’ discussion of love and life in New York. Their affection for the city itself is a small bond, and some of what is symbolises is true of all cities and should strike a note with Londoners.
The show is a ninety minute conversation that the audience is privy to. Both interviewer and interviewee make us laugh and ponder, and piece together two very different lives. Worth a watch.
Reviewed by Joanna Hinson
Photography by PND Photography
The Unbuilt City
King’s Head Theatre until 30th June
Previously reviewed featuring Sandra Dickinson