Sitting high up in the Dress Circle at the Duke of York’s Theatre, I wondered how drawn into the action I would be. Almost every seat was filled and there was certainly excitement in the atmosphere; I guessed it was because within the next few minutes we would all be watching Zach Braff, the play’s own writer, tread the boards. In the opening scene we are met by Charlie (Braff), standing on a chair in a Beach House on Long Beach Island, with a noose around his neck, dressed in a suit, smoking a joint. Powerful, yet it lacked punch somehow. Even as laughter rippled through the audience as the character attempted to, without hanging himself, flick ash into an out of reach ashtray, I found it difficult to relate. There was something too flippant about his supposed self sabotage. Such a heavy topic can lend itself to comedy but too often Braff’s writing and Peter DuBois’ direction felt painfully farcical. The tripping over beads and throwing crisps across the stage took away from Charlie’s self hatred, at one point Charlie is even asked outright, in more of a shout than a nervous question, “Why do you want to kill yourself?” And when the audience finally discover the reason for his attempted suicide, it comes too late and personally, I had passed the point of needing to know.
The characterisation however is stronger; Braff succeeds in linking together four extremely eclectic characters whilst keeping their differences at the forefront of the action. Emma (Eve Myles), a chatty Real Estate Agent is the first to arrive, interrupting what would have been Charlie’s final act, Myron (Paul Hilton), a drug dealer and fireman arrives soon after and finally Kim (Susannah Fielding), a call girl from New York paid to cheer up Charlie. All three misfits succeed in adding humour and layers to the drama that unfolds piece by piece, interspersed by short snippets of film providing a hint of each of their back-storys; an interesting technique and a brave one, but I did feel it disrupted the flow of the action and made it difficult to empathise with the characters.
It is fair to say All New People is a refreshing piece of new writing, though there is definitely room for some tightening up of the script. Would I recommend going to see it? I suppose I would, if only to compare Braff’s acting on stage to his on screen performances in Scrubs and Garden State, and as an alternative to the well established theatre available in the West End.
One of, if not THE best play in the west end i’ve ever seen, and i see at least one a
Month! Although braff takes the lead role, hilton does steal the show. Snotty critics don’t do this play justice, they should stick to their “deeper meaning” plays and remakes of crappy ones that are littered throughout the west end, that younger audiences will not go to. This new play is a breath of fresh air, genius and a comedy that existing critics simply wouldn’t and don’t grasp because their blinkered minds are focused on criticising brand new writing, direction and humour, whilst keeping the old rubbish remakes alive which realistically in the near future will ruin the west end theatre scene, turning away younger enthusiastic theatre goers.