Saturday, May 25

The Comeuppance – Almeida Theatre

The Comeuppance is the first offering of the Almeida’s 2024 season as a thought-provoking piece of theatre that will leave the audience reflecting on their own lives.

The Comeuppance takes place at the pre drinks of a circle of high school friends who reunite before they attend their 20th high school reunion. Many haven’t seen each other for years and each person is at a different point in their lives, as they reconnect and share old memories and inside jokes, another presence is hovering on the outskirts. Death.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins writes a play in which the characters are exploring their perspective of mortality and maturity. They have all grown up since they have last seen each other and have started to reflect on their choices and the consequences of them, all the what ifs and their comeuppance.

We are first introduced to Emilio (Anthony Welsh) and Ursula (Tamara Lawrance). Emilio is the friend that moved out of the country and disconnected from the friend group. Ursula is a woman who still lives in their hometown. Ursula is a diabetic who had lost vision in one of her eyes, she was not planning on attending the real reunion. Caitlin (Yolanda Kettle) soon arrives who is married to an older ex- police officer but is without him for the night. They all start to reminisce. Old grudges and feelings resurfaced, with people remembering their friendships differently.

We are later introduced to Kristina (Katie Leung), a stressed anaesthesiologist with a drinking problem, and Paco (Ferdinand Kingsley), Kristina’s war veteran cousin who was not part of the friend group but Caitlin’s high school boyfriend. The introduction of Paco causes a strange tension in the group.

The pre-reunion is set at Ursula’s house which was designed by Arnulfo Maldonado. The house set was well done, prominently focused on the porch. It felt lived in, with the inside of the house often being used for people to go offstage.

The chemistry between the actors, directed by Eric Ting perfectly, captured the awkward tension when meeting friends from high school who were everything to you, but who now feel like strangers. The audience at times feel on the outside of their inside jokes, but they felt like a realistic old friend group interacting. However, we got to know some characters more than others and I still felt like I did not know any of the characters properly by the end of the play. I’m unsure if this was intentional. 

We are introduced to the character of death through monologues throughout the show. Each of the characters were used to personify death. The accent work was excellent, the cast used their native accents when it was death speaking and would seamlessly switch back to an American accent. Emma Laxton’s sound design adds a haunting, grumbly voice over the top of the actors to further distinguish death from the other characters. The blue hue and spotlight on characters speaking as death highlighted the contrast which was designed by Natasha Chivers. Through these monologues we see how death has individually affected each of the characters.

Unfortunately, it felt like the show attempted to touch on multiple important topics but there were too many which meant nothing was deeply explored, it all felt very surface level. Life outside of the pandemic felt like a major theme, how we were all altered by it. However, like the other themes introduced, it was hardly resolved, and I was left unsure of the writer’s true feelings on the subjects introduced. The ending of this play felt rather abrupt and confusing. Overall, the plot felt rather disconnected and sporadic. 

I believe this play would best resonate with an American audience of a similar age to the cast of characters. Not only for the references to US pop culture but also for reflection on that period of life and all the feelings it elicits.

The Comeuppance is playing at the Almeida Theatre until 18th May. Tickets are available here: https://almeida.co.uk/

Reviewer: Zara Odetunde

Reviewed: 14th April 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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