By Rex Pickett
St James Theatre, London
Director: David Grindley
Reviewer: Laura Shoebottom
What do you get when you mix a lot of wine, two best friends and a bachelor party in California? Sideways by Rex Pickett. A wonderfully layered comedy directed by David Grindley and adapted from the original book also written by Pickett. Set against a backdrop of the Californian countryside with an intriguing multi-use set designed by Laura Hopkins, and strong, detailed acting from start to finish, this is a must see.
Pickett’s script combines sharp witty comedy with complex emotional journeys for all four main characters. We are firstly introduced to struggling writer Miles (Daniel Weyman) and his best friend Jack (Simon Harrison). They are polar opposites with Weyman trying to play the voice of reason and Harrison constantly getting the better of him. The two of them have a clear relationship from the outset and it is extremely apparent as to who is in charge. Some of the initial scenes at first glance seem a bit short but the overall development of the storyline does not suffer from this – the up tempo jazz music between scenes is a welcome accompaniment.
As the first act unfolds we meet cool and confident barmaid Maya (Ellie Piercy) and fiery tasting room manager Terra (Beth Cordignly). Throughout the play the four of them get into about as much trouble as possible as they explore their love of life, wine and of course each other.
Weyman plays the many complex layers of his character superbly – the cool and charming writer on the surface, and the scared, lonely man underneath. One of his most intimate moments is shared with Piercy who also has a powerful stage presence, she plays the strong barmaid and finds wonderful detail and subtlety in her characters more vulnerable moments.
Harrison and Cordingly also have a brilliant on-stage relationship. Their chemistry is electric, almost palpable and makes for some hilarious as well as heated moments. Harrison’s character has a charm and confidence about him, so when he finds a naivety in Jack it adds a real depth to his performance. Similarly, Cordingly brings strength and sass to Terra but she has completely got underneath her pain and ambition with detail which again is lovely to watch.
The cast is completed by Mile’s straight-talking agent Evelyn (Anne Kavanagh), bubbly waitress Rosie (Kirsten Hazel Smith, who also doubles as Mile’s ex-wife Victoria) and her somewhat protective partner (Daniel Barry). All three characters provide many of the endless obstacles that Miles and Jack are faced with during their journey.
The energy built up throughout act one continues boundlessly through the rest of the play leading to a climactic ending. Although the pace doesn’t drop it is really refreshing to see more of the intimate and poignant scenes as the play goes on, allowing the characters relationships to change and continue to build. Conflict and confusion are very much at the forefront of the action during act two and the cast really make use of it in order to drive the story forward.
Powerful, and poignant and well rounded – go and see it.
Runs until: 9th July 2016