Review Round Up: The Unfriend, Criterion Theatre

Take a look at what critics have had to say about the West End transfer of Steven Moffat’s comedy.

(c)Manuel Harlan

Broadway World: **** “Its sardonic take on social protocol is a different world from that which Moffat is used to writing, he counts cultural big hitters like Dr Who and Sherlock under his belt, but he feels entirely at home on a West End stage.”

iNews: ** “If the lines zipped and sparkled this nonsense would be more tolerable, but they do not. Instead, the ruthlessly unfunny scenario grinds on in Mark Gatiss’s production, pummelling ideas that weren’t amusing to start with into utter oblivion by over-extending them. Shearsmith generates more than a touch of Basil Fawlty-style mania, although to considerably less comic effect.”

Evening Standard: **** “But it’s Barber’s Elsa, a glorious grotesque, who gets the best of the show’s many killer lines. On the cruise ship she tells Peter he’s so tense he “could snap a proctologist off at the knuckle”. To Peter’s son, she inappropriately remarks that she has so many chins her body resembles “the underside of a caterpillar”. Barber’s gleeful delight in the part is palpable.”

WhatsOnStage: **** “It’s a brilliant premise, brilliantly realised. Moffatt’s writing is razor sharp, and his structure tight as a python, moving swiftly from family sitcom (the son who is only allowed to fart upstairs) to frenzied farce (the after-effects in the downstairs lavatory of a policeman who may or may not have been poisoned). But it’s the performances that make its zinging script really sing.”

The Telegraph: **** “This story of a couple whose life is invaded by a brash potential serial-killer works its comic magic once again in this West End transfer”

The Arts Desk: ** “Moffat and Gatiss have worked together for years, but The Unfriend finds both men at far from their best. In a transcript of a conversation between them, included in the programme, Gatiss brings up Donald Sinden’s eagle eye for physical comedy, how he could adjust a movement “by millimetres” and make it funny. But Moffat writes with empathy for neither the audience nor his characters. Which, you might argue, is the point of comedy – but the best comedy has warmth at its heart, a twinkle in its eye. No such luck here.”

The Reviews Hub: **** 1/2 “The Unfriend is a killer show made up of an expertly talented cast and crew, well worth cruising over to the Criterion Theatre for a visit. Just try not to buddy up with anyone in the audience as it might not only be laughter you’re dying of by the end of it.”

All That Dazzles: *** “The Unfriend is a pleasantly funny show that loses its way somewhat as time goes on. Though it has enough laugh out loud moments to warrant a fun night out, it is drastically inconsistent and often feels like it would translate better if it was on the screen rather than the stage, often resembling a feature length episode of a TV sitcom such as My Family. Its laugh out loud moments and direction provide a show that will give you a good night out though perhaps not one that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.”

West End Theatre.com: **** “The play effortless romps along with great physicality, underpinned by a tight script and packed with some stand out one-liners. Well-crafted characters, down to a next door neighbour played convincingly by Michael Simkins, are real and relatable. The teen offspring of Peter and Debbie unwittingly become close to Elsa during her week-long stay. Alex, played by Gabriel Howell, beautifully captures the uniform of ennui worn by many a mid-teen. Rosie (Maddie Holliday), their daughter, is convincing in her earnest concern and outrage about being kept out of the loop of family issues.”

Culture Whisper: *** “Moffat’s thriller sitcom, an extended imagining of ‘what ifs’ based on the true story of his friend, has the premise and talent to have us anxiously laughing while our sweaty palms cling to the edge of our seats. It’s a shame it deviates to silliness and ultimately loses its way.”

The Stage: *** “Strong performances energise this West End transfer of Steven Moffat’s light, likeable comedy.”

To book tickets visit: https://lovelondonloveculture.tixuk.com/london-theatre/plays/the-unfriend

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