Theatre review: Becky Shaw, Almeida Theatre, London

Becky Shaw by Gina Gionfrido
Almeida Theatre

Anna Madeley, Vincent Montuel, Daisy Haggard. Photo by Hugo Glendinning
Becky Shaw, which was a big hit off-Broadway, uses a mix of comedy and drama to dissect the nuances of personal relationships. It focuses on a somewhat dysfunctional family whose fragile existence is thrown into sharp relief by the arrival of the eponymous Becky. She is invited by newly married couple Suzanna and Andrew to go on a blind date with Suzanna’s adopted brother Max. When the date proves a disaster, the fall-out forces the characters to look more closely at themselves and how they relate to each other.

Set in and around Rhode Island, the Almeida’s production includes David Wilson Barnes who created the role in New York. He brings out Max’s deadpan humour, delivering many of the play’s hilarious one-liners, but also his vulnerability. Anna Madeley combines strength and brittleness as the emotionally damaged Suzanna while newcomer Vincent Montuel shows that enviably good people can also be wrong. Becky Shaw herself, played to perfection by Daisy Haggard, demonstrates most of all how writer Gina Gionfriddo is examining how our perceptions of people shift in their different relationships – she is initially a sympathetic innocent but emerges as being needy and subtly manipulative.

While Daisy Haggard, a leading comedy actor, is in the title role, it is not just about her – in fact, her character is not even mentioned until several scenes into the play. Instead, it is an ensemble piece, completed by Suzanna’s jaded mother played by Haydn Gwynne, that cleverly presents us with a set of characters we don’t know whether to love or hate.

Amateur Stage magazine

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