Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: GRIMLY HANDSOME, Royal Court


BWW Review: GRIMLY HANDSOME, Royal Court

BWW Review: GRIMLY HANDSOME, Royal Court Chloe Lamford and Sam Pritchard have collaborated on a piece that perplexes and entices. This was my first visit to The Site, (the exterior space located across from the stage door), and I was amazed by its capability to totally transport you from the streets of Sloane Square, into the world of an unnamed American city, where strange things are occurring.

The performance starts the moment your ticket is torn, and the ushers encourage you to explore everything. Complimentary mulled wine, a room with furniture stuck to the ceiling, and an outside crime scene are just some of the elements you're treated to. A glass exhibit dedicated to Santa evokes everything but Christmas cheer.

I would advise you arrive to the Court at least 20 minutes early in order to allow enough time to explore everything. Immersing yourself fully will only make you more impressed when you eventually sit down to watch the piece be performed.

Sharing similarities with a dark crime thriller, which feels both comic and unnerving in equal measure, Grimly Handsome is unlike anything I have ever seen. It's as if Twin Peaks and Fargo had a baby, but then Law & Order adopted the newborn and put their own stamp on it.

Two strangers sell Christmas trees, two cops work to catch the Christmas Ripper, and a young lady discovers that she is transforming in ways she never imagined possible. It's a magnificent exploration of violence, fantasy and utopia, and what narratives they inspire.

There are fine performances from all involved: Alex Austin, Alex Beckett and Amaka Okafor multi-role incredibly well, working collectively to tell the stories of 10 different characters, through three interconnected stories. One acts as a comic foil, the other as antagonist - there's clearly an enjoyment for the work radiating from them on stage.

Julia Jarcho is an expert in experimental chaos; she really puts the audience out of their comfort zone. I definitely enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I understood it. And that's OK, I think. At times I was certainly lost watching the play, but I never lost interest. Jarcho's abstract creation keeps you in a constant state of intrigue.

Even now writing this, I'm still thinking. Thinking of what I took from the piece, and considering what I missed out on. I almost want to go again to find out more, but even then I'd end up questioning. Confusion isn't a bad thing - you shouldn't expect an easy ride as an audience.

There are many theatres where you can just sit back and watch a nice play. But the Royal Court isn't one of these venues. Their recent programming has been intelligent in its creation; it challenges, provokes and makes the viewing experience one that is always evocative of something.

Lamford and Pritchard's creation will leave you with more questions than answers, but it's not always necessary to search for every underlying meaning; sometimes you can just enjoy it for what it is. And what this piece is is a fine-tuned, cross-disciplinary installation that pushes the boundaries of live art, multimedia and theatre.

Grimly Handsome is like nothing I have ever seen before, and it's a great to experience a show like this every once in a while.

Grimly Handsome at the Royal Court until 23 December

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Related Articles View More UK / West End Stories

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More

From This Author Charlie Wilks