Theatre review: All New People

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After earning comedy spurs at the centre of US hospital series Scrubs, or as writer/director of hit move Garden State, actor Zach Braff could have settled for a comfortable existence either side of the cinema lens.

Instead he is currently embarked on the rather higher-risk option of bringing his own one-act comedy drama to UK stages.

It opened here, with another try-out in Glasgow, before it settles in for a 10-week run in London.

This time he’s also putting himself into the central role of 35-year-old Charlie Bloom, whose suicide plans, in an out-of-season Long Island home, are rudely interrupted by the arrival of three complete strangers.

It all opens sombrely-enough, with one of the best sight gags you could imagine, and there’s plenty more dark humour to keep younger audiences, either side of the Atlantic, in tucks.

Rather like another long-running American comedy series Braff’s theme seems to be that friendship, even in the unlikeliest setting, always saves the day.

However, all three of his new ‘friends’ in this cast are British actors, and at the start of the run are not fully engaged with the rhythms of smart American humour.

Eve Myles, even as a British character here, tends to rush her dialogue and talk through the plentiful laughs. Braff generously gives her and the rest of the cast the best of the comedy, and each of their back stories are filled in by filmed excerpts, featuring the likes of Amanda Redman or David Bradley. The quality of their cameos is immediately effective.

The humour is spot on, as far as the youthful target audience is concerned, but at 100 minutes, straight through, appears to place demands above and beyond the call of nature for theatregoers encouraged to take a drink in with them.

Once settled in a smaller theatre, with a less-anxious cast – even an interval – everyone in the house should be a lot more relaxed.