BWW Review: THE UNBUILT CITY, King's Head Theatre
Jonah (Jonathan Chambers) has been sent on a mission to convince wealthy Claudia (Sandra Dickinson) to sell her huge art collection to a university archive. The exuberant socialite has turned into a recluse and the young man might be the key to find out what her private gallery actually contains. King's Head Theatre sees the European debut of The Unbuilt City, which, written by Keith Bunin and directed by Glen Walford, is regrettably boring.
The highly static direction turns the already garrulous and unnaturalistic script - filled to the brim with big words - into an unmoving play. There are a couple of attempts at making the characters quirky - the old lady doesn't read anymore because she believes she's read enough books for a lifetime, and Jonah's pretentious approach to life are only two examples - but they seem futile in the grand scheme of things.
Unfortunately, not even the performances save the show. The actors are unsubtle and only come into their own briefly towards the end; maybe a lack of time and a hurried race to press night are to blame, as lead Dickinson stumbles on her words and rushes her lines while Chambers fights hard not to do the same. When they're not sitting around passively, they declaim their storyline to the audience rather than act their way through it.
All in all, it's unluckily confused as a piece of theatre; while Bunin's writing might be saved by the right angle of direction, this production falls flat in the scarcity of its inspiration.
[Edit: it's been brought to our attention that the sound and lighting boards of the King's Head Theatre were having issues on press night, which lead to Andrew Avery and Tim Deiling's work to be heavily criticised in this piece. It's been since then amended and the parts regarding their contributions have been edited out.]