Review Round Up: Actually, Trafalgar Studios

Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for Oscar Toeman’s production of Anna Ziegler’s new play.

© Lidia Crisafulli.

WhatsOnStage: *** “It’s never not watchable and is full of nuance about the mystery of human relationships, the way that people are constantly wrong-footed by their feelings, side-swiped by complicated emotions. But in terms of drama, its even-handedness counts against it.”

The Stage: *** “In the end, Actually throws up more questions than it answers. It seems less focused on consent itself than institutions’ fumbling attempts to arbitrate in cases like these – and our inability to be honest about our own memories and intentions.”

Time Out: *** “Still, its choppy timeline, furious pace and witty, knowing digs at adolescent naivety make it a satisfying watch: like watching a teen movie that’s grown up, the emotional pain put back in.”

A Younger Theatre: ***** “While I don’t think Actually comes to any conclusions about consent or universities’ dealings with it, the show presents two wholly imperfect characters and their entire worlds imploding with just two actors on a simple stage – the result is definitely worth a watch.”

The Guardian: *** “Oscar Toeman’s production can’t rectify that imbalance but is sharply performed. Simon Manyonda catches Tom’s mix of arrogance and insecurity and Yasmin Paige shows how Amber’s shyness manifests itself in compulsive chatter.”

Everything Theatre: **** “Performance-wise the pressure is on both Yasmin Paige and Simon Manyonda as Amber and Tom. Sharing the narration of the night, then diving off into monologues with moments of dialogue between them, this is a solitary view of a shared act, which itself is interesting.”

The Telegraph: *** “This one is a modest two-hander produced without fanfare in the studio space at Trafalgar Studios. Yet for all that it’s still an important little piece that cuts through some of the clamour surrounding male sexual behaviour to suggest that when it comes to an alleged sexual attack, deciding who is guilty isn’t always an adequate means of determining precisely what has taken place.”

Broadway World: *** “Where Ziegler’s play struggles is in its stakes – or lack of. The drama isn’t loaded with much tension; the scales never tip one way or the other. Because of this, you could be forgiven for losing interest in the narrative. Ziegler doesn’t offer much of a solution to the issue, nor does she allow much time for debate and discussion.”

The National *** “Overall, the writing does favour Tom: the black freshman at Princeton, who has always felt marginalised, and loves Mozart and his mother. Tom’s dialogue is funnier and more self-aware than Amber’s, and as a result we see far more of his interior life than we do hers. This is rectified somewhat towards the end, but although we really aren’t supposed to know which way the feather (referencing the notion that the burden of truth is “50 percent plus a feather”) is going to fall Ziegler’s writing has provided us with a strong hint.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “While Ziegler’s nuanced drama explores a particular case, you will have missed much if you fail to see the wider questions being asked.”

The Upcoming: *** “Those who like resolution or clear-cut heroes and villains will probably struggle to get on board with Actually. And while the overarching story doesn’t feel like anything new, the craft is great. Ultimately, it’s an interesting play that throws enough emotional jabs to keep it compelling throughout.”

London Theatre1: **** “The brilliance in Ziegler’s writing is in its ability to explore the issue of each character’s history, mixed with gender politics, social class and race to indicate the unconscious desires that influenced their actions on the night.”

London Theatre Reviews: **** “Actually is a provocative, thought-provoking and courageous show about consent, privilege, race, life and, ultimately, truth, that sometimes it is not black or white, but grey.”

The Spy in the Stalls: **** “Actually tackles its theme with skilful insight and a refreshing amount of nuance. Its resolution – or, rather, its lack of resolution – makes the show feel complete: not as a piece of storytelling, but as a realistic depiction of sexual assault cases, their complexities, and the ongoing struggle to understand the experiences, not only of others, but of ourselves.”

British Theatre Guide: “The issues are fascinating and there is at least one very good play in the material underpinning Actually and possibly even two. However, what is presented on stage in this version doesn’t hang together as well as its playwright must have wished, meaning that viewers have the opportunity to witness a rather slight piece that could have been considerably more meaningful.”

Actually continues to play at the Trafalgar Studios until the 31st August.

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