I am feeling very envious: I should love to be able to write a play that is one tenth as good as this one, or, failing that, be given the opportunity to play the role of Ray (Stephen Kennedy). I am too long in the tooth to play Matthew (Matthew Blaney), the aspiring young actor.
In truth, this is a wonderful, life-affirming play that is well-nigh perfect! It is very, very, laugh-out-loud funny. But David Ireland, the playwright, knows that his audience cannot laugh all the time, so there are beautiful moments of stillness, of poignancy; and scenes, especially towards the end of the play, that are genuinely very moving and honest. Ireland has that rare gift of being able to write dialogue and present us with real people in what could be real life.
As we enter the theatre, Matthew is sitting at the table centre stage, eating breakfast – just toast and marmalade – and drinking coffee from a cafeteria, the audience is seated on either side of a traverse set.
He has pieces of paper in front of him which turn out to be the script of the opening of Shakespeare’s Richard III. As the house lights fade he begins to rehearse and it is soon obvious that, when he uses an English accent rather than his own Northern Irish, he is not very good! He is interrupted by Ray, his uncle, who just stands there, promising not to interrupt – which we all know he will, and he does! We soon learn that it is the morning after Matthew’s father’s funeral and he is about to fly to London for an audition at RADA (or “radar” as Ray pronounces it).
Kennedy is superb as self-employed decorator Ray, forever giving unwanted advice and putting his foot in it, whilst being totally charming and naïve – and occasionally being very perceptive. He is very relaxed in his role, totally at home with his persona, yet with a secret that he has hidden for many years. A loveable portrait of a loveable man.
Matthew is, unsurprisingly, stressed! He cannot decide whether or not to go to his audition after all that has happened and does not find much of what Ray comes out with, helpful! Blaney is completely believable, his attempts at Shakespeare being very amusing, but we also wish him every success at his audition. Physically he is ‘gangly‘ and awkward whenever he tries to ‘act’: he pretends at first not to be nervous but gradually we discover that he is not only worried about the audition, but also about his father, whose past he knows little. To say any more would be a ‘spoiler’, but suffice it to say that nothing in this play is as obvious as many playwrights would make it!
It is directed by Max Elton, who seems to have had a -hands off’ approach making it seem totally naturalistic and believable – as if we the audience were just a ‘fly on the wall’. Design is by Ceci Calf, lighting by Mattis Larsen, and, I assume, breakfast courtesy of Molly Tackaberry, the stage manager.
This 60-minute play is exactly the right length – one feels that nothing need be added or subtracted: it is perfect as it is. A marvellously enjoyable play!
Review by John Groves
The morning after his father’s funeral, an unsure and still grief-stricken Matthew prepares to fly to London to audition for the prestigious drama school, RADA.
When his painter-decorator Uncle Ray interrupts his private rendition of Richard III’s opening monologue to offer some unwanted direction and dubious career advice, Matthew starts to doubt whether he should really be leaving Belfast in the first place.
Or is Belfast where he truly belongs?
Originally presented by A Play, A Pie and A Pint at Glasgow’s Òran Mór in May 2022 to critical acclaim, Not Now is a sharply written, heartfelt comedy about the past, identity and moving on – from the multi award-winning author of Cyprus Avenue.
Director MAX ELTON
Designer CECI CALF
Sound Designer and Composer JACK BAXTER
Lighting Designer MATTIS LARSON
Associate Producer BRIAR KNOWLES
Producer SARAH ROY
Presented by 19th Street Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.
Tuesday, 1 November – Saturday, 26 November 2022