Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: GOOD CANARY, Rose Theatre Kingston, 21 September 2016

The first thing to say about Good Canary is it is not always an easy play to watch.

Zach Helm's expletive-ridden drama is a darkly comic portrayal of mental disintegration, drug addiction and literary brilliance that is mesmerising and ultimately exhausting to sit through.

The story follows young writer Jack as he gets caught up in an overwhelming wave of success with his debut book. This accomplishment has a devastating effect on his emotionally unbalanced and drug-addicted wife Annie. The fallout is spectacular and has shattering implications for the couple.

Harry Lloyd plays Jack: quiet, modest and devoted to his wife. It is an understated but powerful performance from Lloyd of a character whose loyalty is painfully and consistently tested.

The rest of the cast is also very strong, with Sally Rogers' airhead Sylvia and Ilan Goodman's caricature of a drug dealer called Jeff providing much of the comedy.

However, all eyes are on Freya Mavor as she plays the disturbed and highly intelligent Annie with utter conviction. She has the physical appearance of a true addict: wiry, haunted and with a look of being consumed from within. The chaos of her mind and her life are laid bare in a visceral performance that is both brilliant and heartbreaking.

Oscar nominee John Malkovich makes his UK theatrical directing debut here. Although Good Canary is set in New York, Malkovich has previously directed the play in French in Paris (where it was nominated for six Molière Awards) and in Spanish in Mexico.

Malkovich's love for this play is evident in his direction, which is often inspired. Every scene has something interesting or unique about it. Particularly moving is one between Jack and Annie where their words not spoken, but shown on the screens behind them.

Pierre-François Limboch has worked with Malkovich many times before and his design for the Paris production of Good Canary won a Molière award in 2007. Here he uses three huge digital screens to project backgrounds and animations, as furniture slides seamlessly on and off the stage. It is a filmic and very modern look.

A scene where Annie manically cleans the house after buying thousands of dollars worth of amphetamines is brilliantly conceived. As she dashes back and forth, the background shows windows changing shape and Pop Art animations as a clothes rail whooshes across the stage. This is complemented by cartoon-like sounds effects and sped-up music. The scene is frenetic and perfectly reflects the disintegration of Annie's mind as she falls further into addiction and mental despair.

This is a captivating and tragic play that is beautifully staged and deftly performed. It may not always be comfortable to watch, but it is well worth the effort.

The Good Canary is at Rose Theatre Kingston until 8 October

Photo Credit: Mark Douet



Review: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, Royal Opera House Photo
Whether you see this because of the scintillating score or because a night at the opera is now cheaper than heating your home, The Barber Of Seville is sure to warm the cockles of your heart.

Photos: See Luke Thompson & More in Rehearsals for A LITTLE LIFE Photo
Go inside rehearsals for A Little Life, which will be playing at the Richmond and Harold Pinter Theatres.

Photos: Go Inside Rehearsals for THE BEACH HOUSE, Coming To Park Theatre Photo
Get a first look at The Beach House, which will premiere at Park Theatre having been shortlisted for Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize.

Review Roundup: TITUS ANDRONICUS at Shakespeares Globe Photo
Read the reviews for Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare's Globe.


From This Author - Aliya Al-Hassan

Aliya Al-Hassan is UK Managing Editor of BroadwayWorld. A London-based theatre critic and journalist, she has a life-long passion for the arts, with a focus on theatre and opera. She is a... (read more about this author)


Vicky Featherstone to Step Down as Artistic Director of the Royal CourtVicky Featherstone to Step Down as Artistic Director of the Royal Court
February 3, 2023

Vicky Featherstone has announced she will step down later this year when the search for a new Artistic Director is complete and once they have taken up post. 

Photos: See Newly Released Production Images of SYLVIA at The Old Vic TheatrePhotos: See Newly Released Production Images of SYLVIA at The Old Vic Theatre
February 3, 2023

Directed and choreographed by Kate Prince and starring Beverley Knight as Emmeline Pankhurst and with Sharon Rose as Sylvia Pankhurst, Sylvia will run for a further week, closing on 08 April 2023. Check out the new productions photos here.

Pentabus Launch Their Spring/Summer SeasonPentabus Launch Their Spring/Summer Season
February 3, 2023

Pentabus are launching their Spring/Summer season which features one new commission, two new Digital theatre premieres, two new Writers-in-Residence and the return of Pentabus Young Writers live production with eight brilliant new plays.

David Suchet's POIROT AND MORE, A RETROSPECTIVE Will Come to Hampstead Theatre in MarchDavid Suchet's POIROT AND MORE, A RETROSPECTIVE Will Come to Hampstead Theatre in March
February 3, 2023

David Suchet is to bring his show Poirot and More, a Retrospective to Hampstead Theatre in support of the London venue following its 100% Arts Council England funding cut.

Now on Sale: ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST at Lyric HammersmithNow on Sale: ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST at Lyric Hammersmith
February 3, 2023

Tickets from £18 for Accidental Death Of An Anarchist. An Anarchist has fallen to his death from a police station window. But did he jump or was he thrown?