As you know, we only do the odd theatre review here – essentially when it features someone we like at unpopcult. We like Zach Braff. But then, who doesn’t?
He’s always interesting and engaging on screen, and his writing and directing on Garden State was impressive, so I couldn’t miss his debut as a playwright, All New People.
The clever mix of honesty and off-beat humour in the portrayal of young adult angst has been a running theme in Braff’s past work, and is also the key ingredient in this new piece, even though it’s darker and more grown-up. Going in, I knew it was about a man who tries to kill himself on his 35th birthday only to be interrupted by various misfits coming to the door, but the opening scene was still a little bit of a shock in its bleakness. A shock but not a problem, though: it was also blackly funny, and set the tone for the rest of what proved to be a hilarious, sad, thoughtful and ultimately hopeful piece of theatre. I don’t want to spoil any of the major scenes and the best lines, so I won’t go into details but suffice to say, I laughed loudly and regularly right the way through, and I wasn’t the only one.
The writing is whip-smart, with uncompromisingly strong language and the gags coming thick and fast, and if there were one or two things I didn’t quite buy (Emma’s backstory was too much of a leap for me, for example, and I don’t think the use of pre-recorded videos added much – although my friend thought they were a great idea), it didn’t really matter in the scheme of things. All the performances were great as well; Braff is generous with the limelight on stage, allowing the rest of the cast to shine too, and they all gelled beautifully, making the 100 minute running time (without an interval) fly by. The show moves on to London later this week and I hope it smashes records there too.