wed 13/11/2019

If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, Bush Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, Bush Theatre

If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, Bush Theatre

Teen angst can also be a laugh

Family life can be bad for your health. Especially if you are an overweight teenager. Take Anna for example. She's 15, a bit on the plump side, and having a rough time. At school, where - horror of horrors - her Mum is a teacher, she's attracted the attention of some bullies. But worse than unwelcome attention is neglect: her Dad is too busy writing a book about saving the planet from climate change to pay much attention to his daughter, or his wife. But help is on its way. 

But when Anna’s wired uncle, Terry, comes to stay, things start to look up. At least he talks to her. And stands up for her. And tells her how to handle boys. And what to do on a first date. But Terry also has problems of his own: he's fixated on an ex-girlfriend who is not keen on seeing him again. You can see why: he torched her new man's car. Slowly, as Terry and Anna, this contemporary odd couple, get closer, things begin to change, and Anna gets her first lessons in heartbreak.

Nick Payne’s beautifully observed play is an engaging mix of wild, drunken hilarity and sobering sadness. Written with impressive confidence, the story bounces off the joys of transgression and into the arms of seriousness, often within a single sentence. As well as showing us the familiar contours of teen angst, it also dips its toe into the more troubled waters of depression and marital break-up.

As Anna, Ailish O’Connor delivers a restrained and convincing performance, her eyes shining with infatuation or stricken with disappointment. Compared to her calmness, Rafe Spall is a mesmerising stage presence, in equal degrees appealing and appalling. His drunken rants are excruciating, and highly entertaining, both at the same time. When he’s not on stage, he’s sorely missed - by us as much as by Anna.

The relationship between her parents, with the sensible and sincere Fiona at odds with the goofy, fanatical George, leaves more to the imagination. Central to the play is the contrast between eccentric George's quiet determination to save the planet by never going on holiday abroad, and the mess of his private life. One of the play's messages is: activist, save thyself.

But the struggle of Fiona and George to make their marriage work is as deeply felt as their clumsy attempts to reach out to their unhappy daughter. Her situation, and her discontent, is familiar enough and, just as George can save neither the planet nor his marriage, so his brother Terry himself needs saving. After all, it's easier to give advice to a 15-year-old than to sort yourself out.

Josie Rourke directs flawlessly on Lucy Osborne’s amazing set, which spreads across the entire theatre space, its wash of sky-blue colour urging escape from smalltown life while its many hanging lamps glow or dim every time climate change is mentioned. Psychologically acute, often funny, this is an evening that is both bruising and enjoyable.

  • If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet is at the Bush until 21 November, book tickets online.

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.