True West: Theatre Review

I first saw Kit Harington on stage in 2016 in Doctor Faustus, which I didn’t really enjoy, but it was hard to say if that was down to the Game of Thrones star or the weird adaptation of the source material. Anyway, I decided to give him another shot when True West was announced, because it’s a play by the late Sam Shepherd and his co-star is Johnny Flynn, who was fantastic in Beast.

Harington plays budding screenwriter Austin, who is staying at his mother’s house in California to focus on a script he’s pitched for producer Saul (Donald Sage Mackay). However, his mercurial brother Lee (Flynn) drops by announced and it becomes a power struggle, with them fighting over who has the better film concept.

The production is a slow burner. Not much happens in the first half at all beyond establishing characters and circumstances. There is a whole lot of talking about not much at all and I must admit I switched off a little bit. I felt confident that things were getting in place for an explosive second half though and that feeling proved accurate. It definitely stepped up a gear, and got wilder, crazier, more heated and the stakes got more real.

Flynn is the star of the show. His character is dominant, whereas Harington’s is a bit of wet blanket. Lee is active, temperamental and you don’t know what he’s going to do next. Austin is much more reactive, never really driving any of the plot or action, but he has some fun physical comedy in the second half, when he gets drunk and makes a lot of toast. Those hoping for a repeat of his sexy, butt-baring turn in Faustus will be disappointed to see he has a moustache and is always wearing really lame 80s clothes.

The staging is cool and it gets thoroughly destroyed during the production thanks to some impressively choreographed fight sequences. Those who have waited patiently through all the dialogue heavy scenes do get some pay off at the end with some exciting action.

True West isn’t something that you have to see. I liked it but it’s not essential viewing unless you are huge fans of Harington and/or Flynn.

Showing at London’s Vaudeville Theatre until 23 February

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