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Review of Goodnight Polly Jones at Theatre N16

Goodnight Polly Jones Goodnight Polly Jones (c) Andreas Lambis
Goodnight Polly Jones (c) Photo by Andreas Lambis

The premise for Goodnight Polly Jones is certainly interesting. A workplace flirtation which gets out of hand; a drunken night at a seminar; an abuse of position and authority and then… the fall-out. The opportunity to explore the nuances, politics, assumptions and ramifications of a tricky, yet not uncommon, situation is exciting.

Sadly, Goodnight Polly Jones never really lives up to its potential. This is partly due to the length of the play; at around an hour, the audience is not given the chance to get to know the characters, much less to empathise with them. It’s a shame as both showed signs of being three dimensional, and more time spent in their company might have given us an insight into their background and psyche which would have made them more interesting and likeable. As it is, explanations of their social and professional status are hurriedly crow-barred into the dialogue, making it difficult to connect with either of them emotionally.

Thus, Peter emerges as a baffling character; one part bastard, two parts nice guy, all parts idiot. It is very clear that he is struggling with his HR responsibilities, but he seems nice and we are never shown the laddish side of him which might explain his terrible behaviour later.

Polly, on the other hand, is a total nightmare. She is supposed to be a juvenile character but she comes across as positively infantile, and so antipathic is her character that it is almost impossible to sympathise with her later predicament. Awfully, despite the horror of what happens to her, there is a slight feeling of “serves you right” – which I hope is not what the writer or director intended. Her subsequent total metamorphosis into responsible, pleasant, intelligent adult is unbelievable, especially as we are given to understand that it took place over only four years.

The actors do their best with the parts. Ben Keenan as Peter is very charming and contrives to make his character as genuine as possible, despite the awkward dichotomies. Victoria Morrison is a vivacious and watchable Polly, and she manages the transformation between the two completely opposite sides of her personality very well. Peter and Polly’s confrontation after the incident is handled very well by both of them; the awkward silences, fear and disbelief are natural and pack a good punch. This scene’s dialogue is particularly good; it seems writer Andrew Sharpe has a gift for the tragic and the dramatic, though rather less for comedy. The few jokes in the play, apart from an irrelevant aside about David Cameron, fell flat.

Lana MacIver’s direction is slightly stilted; the actors use the small space self-consciously and a lot of the dialogue is addressed directly to the audience – presumably for impact, but it does feel rather clunky. Set and costume changes are covered by pre-recorded audio scenes, which is a clever idea but they do go on too long.

All in all, Goodnight Polly Jones is a super concept, bravely tackling an interesting, important and emotive topic. It is a great shame that the execution didn’t live up to the potential.

2 gold stars

Review by Genni Trickett

Peter knows that he is being highly unprofessional; but she is so cute, and funny and so damn sexy. As for spoiled rich kid Polly? Hey, girls just want to have fun. Their doom is wrought one weekend on a residential course. Years later Polly returns to face her old boss, only now the tables are turned. Hilarious and terrifying, Goodnight Polly Jones is a devastating indictment of sexual behaviour in the modern workplace.

February 1st – 11th 2016, 7:15pm, Theatre N16
Press Night: February 2nd 2016, 7.15pm


  • Genni Trickett

    Genni is one of the senior reviewers for LondonTheatre1.com, contributing regularly with reviews for London and regional shows. Genni has been passionate about theatre from an early age, performing in various productions throughout school and university. She is currently an enthusiastic member of an amateur dramatic society in South West London. Her favourite thing about living in London is the breath-taking variety of shows and theatrical talent. https://www.facebook.com/genevieve.trickett

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