True West (****)


Set in the 1980s, this twisted comedy of sibling rivalry sees Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn playing brothers pitted against each other in a bid to achieve their American dream.

Harington portrays Austin, an Ivy-league educated scriptwriter who is finally about to make his big break on a Hollywood film. Austin arrives on stage far before the show begins, sitting quietly and tapping away on his typewriter whilst remaining audience members take their seats and settle in, ready for the show to start. The show begins and not long passes before the arrival of his brother, Lee. Played by Flynn, Lee has a dangerous air about him and seems as though he is constantly teetering on the edge of sanity. Lee is the perfect foil to his focussed and hardworking brother; Harington and Flynn both deliver faultless performances and bring out the best and worst in each other’s characters.

Austin is housesitting for his mother just outside of LA when Lee arrives out of the blue. Preoccupied with his script and an upcoming meeting with a big Hollywood producer, Austin begs Lee to leave the house whilst the meeting is happening to save any embarrassment. Act one, however, sees a painful turn of events for Austin when Lee arrives in the middle of the meeting, bonds with the producer in a comic scene about golfing, and plucks the script deal straight out of Austin’s competent hands before he even knows what is happening.

Whilst Flynn commands the stage in act one, the second act belongs to Harington who delivers some of the finest comic moments of the show. Act two sees a strange role reversal between the two brothers as illiterate Lee becomes more frustrated with his inability to write the movie script for the story he has imagined. Austin, on the other hand, is still reeling from the situation he has found himself in. Taking Lee’s bait after a few too many drinks, Austin heads out to steal as many of the town’s toasters as he can. He is seen making slice after slice of toast for the remainder of the play, a running joke that only grows funnier as it continues.

The rest of the play falls in to a drunken frenzy of violence and hysteria. Sam Shepard’s scripts are known to focus more on mood rather than storyline. This combined with Matthew Dunster’s wicked sense of humour, which truly comes across in his direction, makes for a puzzling but thoroughly enjoyable two hours of theatre. This truly is one not to miss.

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