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It’s Headed Straight Towards Us at Park Theatre

Backstage farce and character comedies about angsty actors reckoning with the twilights of their careers are subgenres in their own rights and many a fine writer has built satisfying stories in this vein. Sadly, legendry comedians Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer have managed with It’s Headed Straight Towards Us only to construct a painful evening of tedium and cliché that is so formulaic and dated it feels like a cable TV pilot made just for its name-value and destined never to go to series.

Samuel West (Hugh), Nenda Neururer (Leela) and Rufus Hound (Gary) in It's Headed Straight Towards Us at the Park Theatre. Pamela Raith Photography
Samuel West (Hugh), Nenda Neururer (Leela) and Rufus Hound (Gary) in It’s Headed Straight Towards Us at the Park Theatre. Pamela Raith Photography.

Neither funny nor moving, this production manages to spend the better part of two hours contemplating the lowest possible stakes experienced by wholly uninteresting and unlikeable characters. Imagine all the anguish of A Chorus Line, but without show-stopping musical numbers or emotional engagement; all the histrionics of Withnail and I, but played entirely straight on a static set before a live TV studio audience on the 27th take; the blocking of Porridge, but stretched in a cavernous space such that claustrophobia is mentioned but never felt – meld them all together and you can effectively approximate the banality of Edmondson and Planer’s script that underpins this flabby two-act three-hander directed by Rachel Kavanaugh.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Kavanaugh, who has a fine pedigree in musical theatre direction, struggled to tame the indulgences of her writers. I also began to wonder whether the material might even have been assisted as a musical (I don’t think anything could have made it much worse) or at least with great lashings of absurdity to create a more interesting world than the production’s brightly light trailer so (metaphorically and literally) crammed with luvvie in-jokes that you’ll feel like you’ve been condemned to an interminable ride in a thespian themed party bus for the over-50s set. However, Kavanaugh and her creative team (set and costumes by Michael Taylor) stay squarely in a world of cheesy naturalism that acts as funny-repellent. Indeed, the literalism of the show’s imagery (with the exception of a rather good nonsensical sci-fi “Thermadon” costume) only highlights the script’s labouring clunkiness. Although generously budgeted stagecraft and bursts of stunt movement cause a flicker of surprise, the story itself is monotone and simply doesn’t have any propulsion or purpose.

Rufus Hound (Gary) and Samuel West (Hugh) are both fine actors, but they are offered roughly as much character development as you’d find in a two-middle-aged-male-ex-politicians-yacking podcast. Indeed, when Hound is allowed to sample a little King Lear, I felt gratified that he could disown this play’s script and demo his actual skills with some quality stage writing. Relative newcomer, Nenda Neururer (Leela) has even dodgier dialogue and is not afforded even the courtesy of dropping in a Chekhov quote like the fellows to wink at her bona fides. Alas, Leela gets to enjoy the depth of empathy one usually finds the target of a Laurence Fox tweet these days: she is an unsympathetic pastiche of a Gen Z snowflake. If the play had any importance, I’d point out that it seems to have fallen into its own trap and punches down it seems by force of habit and lack of editorial grip – but any attempts at social commentary in this work are just so embarrassing they only merit an eye-roll.

The play’s essential question is asked by Gary in the second act (which is remarkably like the first act): “Is she saying we are just a couple of c*nts?”

The answer is yes.

There is no joy or intrigue in watching two such men and a paper-thin stereotype – erupting volcano or not. Despite some fine timing and delivery from its cast, It’s Headed Straight Towards is an utterly uninspiring ‘who cares’ fest.

2 gold stars

Review by Mary Beer

Two actors, stuck in a trailer on the side of a volcano, in Iceland. The glacier is melting, the volcano is active. Bitter rivalries emerge between fussy ‘bit part’ actor Hugh Delavois (Samuel West) and fading Hollywood bad boy Gary Savage (Rufus Hound), going back to their time at college together, as the film they are meant to be working on collapses around them and the trailer they are in begins to slip. An avalanche wipes out the only escape road, and the only bridge to safety subsides into the ravine.

Stuck with them is 21-year-old Leela (Nenda Neururer), the runner on the film, and supposed seismology expert. As their arguments and point-scoring become increasingly fractious, it is down to Leela to contain their petty squabbles and prepare them for the possibility that they may not get out of this alive.

CAST
GARY | RUFUS HOUND
HUGH | SAMUEL WEST
LEELA | NENDA NEURURER

CREATIVES
WRITERS | ADRIAN EDMONDSON AND NIGEL PLANER
DIRECTOR | RACHEL KAVANAUGH
SET & COSTUME DESIGNER | MICHAEL TAYLOR
LIGHTING DESIGN | MARK DOUBLEDAY
SOUND DESIGN | FERGUS O’HARE
CASTING DIRECTION | SERENA HILL

Jonathan Church Theatre Productions and RJG Productions in association with Park Theatre present
It’s Headed Straight Towards Us
By Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer
Playing to 20th October 2023
https://parktheatre.co.uk/

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Author

  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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1 thought on “It’s Headed Straight Towards Us at Park Theatre”

  1. I unfortunately saw it on the second night preview. It was boring at times and not often funny – not good for a comedy. I agree with you. A waste of time and I felt short changed. I read two reviews for this (sadly I didn’t have a review to go on as it was a preview – never again) and one gave it 3 out of 5 and the other 4 out of 5. Either they don’t understand what humour is or they were reviewing the wrong show. Save your money and your time. Good acting but a clumsy script. 0.5 out of 5.

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