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The Same Deep Water As Me, Donmar Warehouse

Nick Payne
Directed by John Crowley

Pros: Great writing that will have you laughing all evening.

Cons: The joke! I’m saying no more. The ending might not feel right to everyone.

Our Verdict: Humour applied to an unsavoury element of current culture. Social commentary with a funny bone.

Courtesy of Johan Perrson and Donmar Warehouse

The Donmar Warehouse* is one of my favourite theatres and I’ve never seen a poor production there. With this in mind, I was excited to go along to see the latest show. Located in Covent Garden, it’s an intimate space with just 250 seats. All the staff were welcoming, helpful and cheery and I settled into my seat with great anticipation.

This is a comedy based on the ubiquitous subject of the personal injury claims industry. We’re all familiar with the radio and TV adverts appealing to us to sue for any mishap and reap the financial rewards. No-win-no-fee! It has a reputation for being a somewhat sleazy business with potential for abuse of the system. Ripe material for comedy.

In the first act Nick Payne brings us into the offices of Scorpion Claims in Luton; a typical, small-fry, two man band legal firm specialising in the personal injury sector. Many of us will be familiar with the small office environment. It’s re-created perfectly here on the Donmar stage right down to the mis-matched filing cabinets and the attempts of a small company to appear bigger and better than it really is (in an attempt to inspire confidence and awe in their clients). In reality much emphasis is placed on popping out to Greggs to get lunch and the pros and cons of what might be on the menu.

Right from the off the language is “colourful” and gets increasingly so. However, this adds great comic value to the dialogue and had the audience in stitches. The characters are all so well drawn, without exception, and a joy to watch. Monica Dolan takes two roles but for me she excelled as Anne, the taxi driver. Her comedy timing is spot on and her joke telling scene is a high point. Marc Wootton as Kevin Needleman steals the biggest laughs. He represents all that we complain about in Britain today. Constantly trying to find a way to fiddle the system to his own ends, he’s the villain and joker wrapped up in one; unbearable but hysterical. Niky Wardley as his put-upon wife, Jennifer Needleman, also deserves a mention. With an honest heart of gold we warm to her immediately and she brings naive integrity into an increasingly corrupt situation. Peter Forbes as Judge Jessup is brilliantly restrained but very funny. I feel bad not mentioning all the cast by name as they were all superb and there were no weak links.

The second act brought us into the courtroom with the legal battle of David (small legal company) up against the mighty Goliath (major corporation) which provided another rich seam of comedy gold. Inevitably what goes up must come down and the humorous highs dutifully give way to a more sombre ending. Although we had poignant moments dropped in throughout the laughter to add contrast, I felt that if there was any weak point – and this is being picky – it was the ending. Was justice served? Did the good guys win? Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys? When the jokes are set aside, is this the reality?

This is a show which finds the comedy in a sleazy industry, and is performed expertly. Although the ending may not appeal to everyone (I don’t want to give the game away by giving any further details), I would strongly recommend you get hold of a ticket before they sell out.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Same Deep Water As Me runs at Donmar Warehouse until 28th September 2013
Box Office: 0844 871 7624 or book online at http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/donmar-warehouse/

*The Donmar would like to note that it receives significant and on-going support for the company’s work from their Principal Sponsor, Barclays.

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