Jim Broadbent is hysterical in a production that is classic McDonagh: hilarious, dark and absolutely bonkers – ★★★★
There’s a degree of newfound self-awareness and confidence in McDonagh’s latest production. The humour is edgier and the plot is his most absurd yet – and he knows it.
In a house in Copenhagen, Hans Christian Andersen (hilariously and comfortably portrayed by Broadbent – an actor known for playing bumbling, over-enthusiastic characters) has a secret hiding in a box in his attic in Copenhagen. A Very Very Very Dark Matter is an apt description of what unfolds.
As much as the play reaches new extremes for the Irish playwright, there’s the usual McDonagh tropes dotted throughout the plot. Striking similarities with The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Ryan Pope and Graeme Hawley play the two antagonists trying to hunt down and kill one of the lead characters. Except this time it’s two red men named Dirk and Barry from Belgium.
Outside the role of being daft comic relief, the pair’s part in the story centres historical grudges and time travel. It’s to be expected from such a production, but its execution – save from a couple of laughs – is confusing and somewhat meaningless on a larger scale.
Perhaps the funniest chemistry comes from Andersen’s interactions with fellow author Charles Dickens (Phil Daniels). Daniel’s bluntness and dry wit as Dickens mixes brilliantly with Broadbent’s charming, naive Andersen in scenes where most of the play’s one-liners can be found.
Contrast this with the scenes between Hans and young girl ‘Marjorie’ (Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles) where the play’s darker, serious side comes to light. Bold and sharp, it’s an impressive theatrical debut for Ackles.
Running for an hour and 30 minutes, A Very Very Very Dark Matter is short, but by no means sweet. Finely directed by Matthew Dunster, the short running time keeps things fast-paced and gripping, before leaving you wondering what the hell just happened.
This review is of a preview performance of the production. A Very Very Very Dark Matter is now playing at the Bridge Theatre until 6 January 2019.
Production Images: Manuel Harlan.