THE ROYAL COURT THEATRE PRESENTS
The Acid Test
by Anya Reiss
13 May - 11 June 2011
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Tickets: £20. Mondays all seats £10
“This has been the worst day of my life. So can you please get drunk with me?”
Dana, Ruth and Jess down shots to console the heart-broken, to comfort the anxious and just pass the time. Kicked out from the family home Jess’s Dad, Jim, invades the party with just as much recklessness as the girls. As the night passes and vodka bottles are emptied, Friday night in becomes high drama.
An unruly new comedy asking if age equals maturity.
The Acid Test is the second play from Anya Reiss, whose play Spur of the Moment premiered at the Royal Court in July 2009, winning her the award for Most Promising Playwright at both the Evening Standard and Critics Circle awards. Anya completed the Young Writers Programme at the Royal Court and wrote her first play when she was 17.
Simon Godwin will direct. His credits at the Royal Court include Wanderlust by Nick Payne, Far Away at Bristol Old Vic, The Winter’s Tale for Headlong and the Nuffield Theatre Southampton, Mister Heracles at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. As Associate Director of the Royal and Derngate Theatres in Northampton under Artistic Director Rupert Goold, Simon directed seven main stage shows. He also directed work as part of the Royal Court 2008 International Residency.
Age guidance 14+
Running time 1hr 30mins, no interval
£10 tickets are available for Mon 6 June on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person. The allocation available in advance to Friends and Supporters has now sold out.
Select a Date
Dates in May
|Fri 13 May 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 14 May 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 16 May 2011||7:45pm||Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 17 May 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 18 May 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 19 May 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 20 May 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 21 May 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 23 May 2011||7:00pm||Press Night||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 24 May 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 25 May 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 26 May 2011||3:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
|Thu 26 May 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 27 May 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 28 May 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 28 May 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Tue 31 May 2011||7:45pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Dates in June
|Wed 1 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 2 Jun 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 2 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 3 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 4 Jun 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 4 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 6 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 7 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 8 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 9 Jun 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 9 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 10 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 11 Jun 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 11 Jun 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Sold out Performances
£10 Monday tickets can be booked in advance by Royal Court Friends and Supporters. Annual membership starts from £25 and can be booked with the Box Office on 020 7565 5000. 50% of the tickets for each £10 Monday performance will be released for public booking online at 9am on the day of the show.
Concessions £15 (avail. in advance until 21 May 2011 incl. and all mats. For all other perfs, avail. on a standby basis on the day)
School and HE Groups of 8+ £10 (avail. Tue–Fri and mats)
Access £12 (plus a companion at the same rate)
Susannah Clapp, The Observer, Sunday 29th May 2011
It’s only a year since Anya Reiss’s first play was staged at the Royal Court: she was 18 and waiting for her A-level results. In The Acid Test she looks at three twentysomething women with the unforgiving glare of the insider and the vivid curiosity of an anthropologist.
“God, you lot are fascinating,” exclaims the dad of one of the girls: he’s the hook of the plot (is one of them going to cop off with him?) and is cleverly left dangling. He is right: against the odds. These girls are squawky, soppy, frequently pissed, always swearing and yet vivid and mysterious. Their lives have scarcely been seen on stage, though they are hardly less interesting than those of real-estate agents (Glengarry Glen Ross). There’s every reason why you would want to watch them acted by Phoebe Fox, Vanessa Kirby and Lydia Wilson, and surveyed by embarrassing Denis Lawson.
Paul Wills’s hyper-real design makes an ornament of clutter and envelops the corridor leading into the auditorium, which has been got up like a street. Simon Godwin’s production is sharp and quick, the physical movement as volatile and fiery as the girls’ moods. The acid test has a sweet result for author and director.
4 stars Paul Callan, The Daily Express, Friday 27th May 2011
Anya REISS caused a frisson of delight with her debut 2010 play Spur Of The Moment which she wrote while still taking her A-levels. She won two “promising playwright” awards and gave critics a sense of optimism about the English stage. Many wondered if she was merely a blazing candle that burnt out easily. A one-hit wonder girl. The answer is a ringing No. This new play, rightly premièred at the Royal Court where masters such as John Osborne first blazed, The Acid Test is an assurance that Ms Reiss’ talent is no mere momentary flicker.
The short 90-minute play concerns an evening with three 20-ish girl flatmates, all middle-class and public-school educated and each forced to face the harsh realities that love and sex are not what they thought. They spend much of the evening slurping back copious amounts of vodka and unleashing anger against each other and at the way the world is treating them. All this is affected by the arrival of Jim, the father of one of the girls, Jessica. He has been kicked out by his wife who appears to be having an affair with the handyman.
One of this young playwright’s strengths is her understanding and use of language. She has caught with great accuracy the verve and style of expression used by young women of this class. One has only to step out of the theatre to hear the real thing in any pub in Chelsea. Equally the three young actresses playing the girls give exciting performances that cleverly bring out the play’s underlying themes, the stress of immaturity and the quest for purpose.
Vanessa Kirby, as Dana, the glamorous blonde of the trio, gives us a basically sad character wandering in the land of the airhead. Phoebe Fox is strong as the explosive Ruth and Lydia Wilson is exceptional as the sceptical and scornful Jessica. The veteran actor Denis Lawson is equally convincing as the confused father battling with a spiteful daughter. There were moments, particularly in the scene where Jim and Jessica unleash their distrust of one another, when Anya Reiss hits the mark in showing some father-daughter relationships. Simon Godwin’s direction is well-controlled and Paul Wills’ set has a magnificent messiness.
4 stars Claire Allfree, The Metro, Thursday 26th May 2011
OMG, this teen has talent.
Youth has at least one advantage over years when it comes to playwrighting: it allows you to capture the fast-changing demotic of young adults without – at least in the case of 19-year-old Anya Reiss – putting a single OMG wrong.
This second play from the talented teen maps out a similar territory to her cracking debut, Spur Of The Moment, in its acerbically funny portrait of a troubled middle-class daughter caught in the crossfire between her warring, adulterous parents, but this time swaps the fevered brink of adolescence for the boozy, treacherous dawn of adulthood.
Twenty-one-year-old Jessie shares a flat with her two, more boisterous (public) school friends, whose idea of a good Friday night in is downing copious vodka shots before staggering across town to sleep with the boss. But friendship tensions soon emerge when Jessie’s father, Jim (Denis Lawson), comes to spend a night on the sofa, having been thrown out of the marital home.
Simon Godwin’s ebullient production sucks you right into the girls’ messy convivial intimacy, thanks in part to his three outstanding younger actors, Lydia Wilson (Jessie), Phoebe Fox (Ruth) and Vanessa Kirby (Dana), whose easy naturalism and pin-sharp timing yield plenty of dynamic comic texture from Reiss’ high-wire use of inarticulate youth-speak and encroaching inebriation.
Reiss also cleverly refuses to fulfil the play’s narrative sexual expectations, although Jim’s convoluted attitude towards his daughter is, problematically, never very persuasive.
The play is more a sideways glance at negotiating maturity than a full-frontal examination and Jessie’s angst is frustratingly marginalised, but if Reiss is currently better at setting up scenes then detonating them, she is also bursting with promise.
4 stars Paul Taylor, The Independent, Thursday 26th May 2011
Anya Reiss won a stack of “most promising playwright” awards for Spur of the Moment, a piece she wrote when she was all of 17. There must be envious contemporaries who would not be heartbroken to see her take a tumble at that notoriously tricky hurdle, the second play. It’s bad news for them, I fear.
The Acid Test is a hilarious and painfully perceptive study of the difficulties inherent in the father-daughter relationship; a brilliantly observed snapshot of young, recently graduated middle-class women; and an acute meditation on what we mean by “maturity”.
Shaped as a “long night’s drunken journey into bleary day” sort of play, the drama is triggered when, to the horrified bemusement of her two female flatmates, 21-year-old Jessica brings her dad back to sleep on the sofa in their messy apartment. Expertly played by Denis Lawson, old irresponsible Jim has just been ejected from his home by a wife who has shacked up with a roofer. That makes Jim’s attempts to be hip (“We used to say ‘shag’, am I hideously out of date? “) or authoritative (he claims, falsely, to be funding the flat) look all the more wince-making.
But as the vodka and the drugs do the rounds in Simon Godwin’s superlative production, Jessica’s flatmates flirtatiously play up to this amiable, inadequate man. Ruth (Phoebe Fox) has been dumped by a boyfriend called Twix who, but for a mass of fashionable “anti-” stances (he’s against Andrex tissue) and manipulative suicide “bids”, would seem to be one bar short of the full package. Beautiful, charming Dana (Vanessa Kirby, a star if ever I saw one) wrestles with the notion that she is a conscious slut who uses men – until sleeping with her boss goes horribly wrong. Then she refuses to concede that she won’t do it again.
The dialogue and acting capture the way this generation juggle their emotions within shrugging quote marks. There is a climactic, ugly showdown between Jim and Jessica, who is bright-eyed with hurt in Lydia Wilson’s quietly gutting performance. He is the kind of man who thinks he can get away with years of emotional absenteeism with a winning declaration that he’s not perfect. An excellent follow-up to an extraordinary debut.
4 stars Dominic Maxwell, The Times, Wednesday 25th May 2011
The performance contains continuous smoking throughout,” warns a sign on the way in to this second play from the 19-year-old Anya Reiss. The performance, it should also be said, contains continuous wit and insight and terrific acting throughout.
What a startlingly fine entertainment this is. It’s one thing for Reiss to be able to render the language, mores and self-dramatising tendencies of her three flat-sharing friends, all in their early twenties. But she is almost as acute and amusing with the foibles of the middle-aged. Even more than in last summer’s debut, Spur of the Moment, she nails the games we all play.
Jim (Denis Lawson) is the charming dad of one of the girls, staying over after a “bit of a spat back at HQ”. Which is to say, his wife has left him for their roofer. Life, he says after a night of swearing, raspberry vodkas and simmering tension with his daughter, is “always like a bloody EastEnders episode”.
Reiss’s 90 minutes give each of her characters a complex life of their own. There’s Dana (Vanessa Kirby): gorgeous, amoral, yet not as shallow or as blithe as she’d like to think she is. There’s Ruth (Phoebe Fox), fresh from an hilariously bad break-up with her boyfriend Twix. And there’s Jess (Lydia Wilson), whose quiet hostility to her dad is the turd in the punch bowl.
What’s wrong with dad? We know, even as the first half keeps us high on its adroit ironies, that Reiss has to go dark at some point. But we don’t need another play where daddy is a child abuser, do we? He’s not going to sleep with anyone he shouldn’t, is he? But, phew, there are no soap-operatic twists here, no boil-in-a-bag catharsis. Wilson plays Jess’s awkward sarcasm a treat — the more her dad charms her friends, the more lonely she feels.
Home truths get told, yet nobody drops their guard entirely. Jess is wronged, Jess is judgmental. Jim is jolly, Jim is selfish. Reiss’s ability to allow competing points of view is startling, and not just for her age. She falters only when she forces her characters into an over convenient ending.
Simon Godwin’s production is a marvel, putting us into the heart of the action throughout. Paul Wills’s design makes the audience snake around a council-flat corridor to get to the auditorium. Once there, we sit around the set, as if in this living-room. It’s wonderfully intimate, frequently funny, but not sentimental or showy. The humour, like the sadness, comes from character and situation throughout. That difficult second play? Pah! Anya Reiss makes it look easy. 4 stars Ian Shuttleworth, The Financial Times, Tuesday 24th May 2011
It is a most peculiar feeling to be commenting on a writer consolidating her dramatic skills and developing a distinctive voice when the writer in question is not yet out of her teens. Last year, Anya Reiss, then aged 18, broke Christopher Hampton’s 1966 record as the youngest Royal Court playwright, and won a brace of major Most Promising awards for her examination of just-pre-teen sexuality in Spur Of The Moment. The Acid Test builds appealingly on that promise.
On this occasion the central clutch of characters are just a little bit older than Reiss: three flatmates in their early 20s. When one arrives home on a Friday night with her just-separated father in tow, a long night of booze, dope and personal crises ensues.
Reiss still has moments of uncertainty writing for older characters – she knows, for example, that the moment of embarrassing dad-dancing she includes is a cliché and does not overdo it, but she does put it there in the first place – but when she focuses on characters, views and moods rather than moments of middle-aged tone, she scarcely puts a foot wrong.
The generational mood itself is excellently achieved when it is closer to home: the banter and the self-dramatisation of the three young women is simply spot on.
It is this self-dramatisation that is the play’s real subject. Relationship break-up, career sex, job loss and attempted suicide all take place during the 90 minutes of the play, but all offstage, reported and recounted.
This is not a failing of the basic dramatic maxim “show, don’t tell”; on the contrary, what Reiss is showing is how the four characters respond, how they cast themselves in their own dramas, how they are constructing their lives from these experiences and how significant those may or may not turn out to be. As with Spur Of The Moment, the climactic confrontation is a little contrived, but Reiss then conscientiously works to move beyond it.
Paul Wills has designed an immersive shared-flat space reached, in the theatre, by passing several identical doors to neighbouring flats.
Simon Godwin adroitly directs Vanessa Kirby (as the beautiful but insecure one), Lydia Wilson (as the filially ungrateful one), Phoebe Fox (as the semihysterical one) and Denis Lawson (as the old one). And Reiss continues to show the kind of youthful talent that makes even Polly Stenham – the now-24-year-old writer of That Face – look superannuated
4 stars Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard Tuesday 24th May 2011
Traditionally an acid test has been used to distinguish gold from lesser metals, which makes the title of Anya Reiss’s second play peculiarly apt (and deliberately so, I suspect).
For since the success last year of her debut, Spur of the Moment, the 19-year-old Londoner has been under the microscope: was that brilliantly oppressive portrait of family life a one-off, or is she the significant new voice many were then quick to acclaim?
This 90-minute piece suggests the latter. It centres on Jess, a brittle twenty something, and her flatmates Dana and Ruth. They live in studenty near-squalor, and all the action takes place in their flat between nine o’clock on a Friday night and six the next morning.
It begins with an argument about mislaid keys and a treacherous boyfriend but really gets under way when Jess’s father Jim turns up, apparently after being thrown out by her mother. He and the three young women perform a sort of danse macabre, in which the vanities of existence are explored in a drink-sodden, wickedly humorous style.
Denis Lawson’s Jim may not be good at talking to his daughter but her friends think he’s brilliant.
They embrace him as a crony and anoint him as an oracle. Even when he shimmies around the living room to Marvin Gaye they’re not dismayed, finding him refreshingly unpretentious.
Yet Jim is a catalyst for dark reflections, and he elicits extreme behaviour from all three, as they disclose their problems with intimacy, honesty and the material pressures of early adulthood.
This is more fun than it sounds. Simon Godwin directs with fluency and an eye for telling detail, and his cast serves him superbly. Phoebe Fox, whose Ruth is a mixture of sulk and firecracker, strikes me as a real find – the type of volatile yet essentially disciplined actor who could light up any kind of comedy. As demonstrative Dana, Vanessa Kirby displays a lovely brightness and a fine command of timing.
And Lydia Wilson, as Jess, gives a performance of sensitivity and depth.
Occasionally the writing strains credibility. It seems too incident-strewn, too manic and at times surreally profane. But it has wit and heart, and much of the dialogue is disconcertingly authentic.
Adept at capturing the cadences of post-adolescent chatter, Reiss also knows how to probe the most raw emotions.
Michael Billington, The Guardian Tuesday 24th May 2011
The second play, they say, is the hardest. But Anya Reiss more than fulfils the promise she showed last year, as an 18-year-old, with Spur of the Moment. Even if this new piece may occasionally remind senior spectators of a late 1960s TV sitcom, Take Three Girls, it is tighter and more focused than Reiss’s first venture into the world of dysfunctional middle-class families.
Reiss here presents us with a trio of screwed-up flat-sharers all in their early 20s. Self-absorbed Ruth is agonising over being dumped by her equally neurotic boyfriend. Flirty Dana, who likes to pose as an airhead, can’t decide whether to sleep with her ginger-haired boss. But it is the shyer, more guarded Jessica who provokes the real crisis by bringing her dad, Jim, back to the flat after he’s been thrown out of the family home. In the course of a long, vodka-fuelled Friday night and Saturday morning, Jim reveals his own failures as both father and husband and exposes the hidden tensions among the flaky flat-sharers.
The sharply observant Reiss scores most heavily in showing the limitless capacity of parents to embarrass their offspring: the more Jim seeks to enter into the party spirit by joking, dancing and smoking a joint with the girls, the more Jessica visibly cringes. Reiss is also good on the power battles among the three girls and the way Dana and Ruth gang up with the fun-loving Jim against his withdrawn, virginal daughter. Even better is the situation’s tangible air of sexual excitement that Reiss is shrewd enough to leave unsatisfied. But, for all its surface vivacity and painful excavation of father-daughter relationships, the play steers towards a glib denouement. In her quest for a neat ending Reiss dispels the earlier mood of palpable authenticity.
Her 90-minute play is, however, well directed by Simon Godwin and deftly designed by Paul Wills, who leads us through a maze of corridors at the Theatre Upstairs before we reach the gaudy, disordered, debris-filled sitting room. The excellent performances also survive our close-up scrutiny. Vanessa Kirby as the seductive Dana and Phoebe Fox as the angsty Ruth hover around Denis Lawson’s crumpled catalyst like honey bees while Lydia Wilson’s Jessica gazes on in appalled horror since she knows her father’s true character.
Like its predecessor, Reiss’s play proves she knows a thing or two about the pervasive effect of parental discord on the young. But, having shown herself a wily observer of domestic disharmony, I hope Reiss now moves out into the wider world. Büchner, she might recall, was only 21 when he wrote Danton’s Death.
Fri 13 May, 7:45pm
Sat 14 May, 7:45pm
Tue 17 May, 7:45pm
Wed 18 May, 7:45pm
Thu 19 May, 7:45pm
Fri 20 May, 7:45pm
Sat 21 May, 7:45pm
Sat 28 May, 3:30pm
Thu 2 Jun, 3:30pm
Sat 4 Jun, 3:30pm
Thu 9 Jun, 3:30pm
Sat 11 Jun, 3:30pm
Fri 13 May, 7:45pm
Sat 14 May, 7:45pm
Mon 16 May, 7:45pm
Tue 17 May, 7:45pm
Wed 18 May, 7:45pm
Thu 19 May, 7:45pm
Fri 20 May, 7:45pm
Sat 21 May, 7:45pm
Mon 23 May, 7:00pm
Sat 28 May, 3:30pm
Sat 4 Jun, 3:30pm
Sat 11 Jun, 3:30pm
Tue 31 May, 7:45pm
Thu 2 Jun, 3:30pm
Thu 9 Jun, 3:30pm
Wed 8 Jun, 7:45pm
See the Dates & Tickets tab for all dates.