Review – The Priory, Royal Court

The Priory
The Priory really is a rather old fashioned play. Cast of seven, same setting throughout, lots of people walking on and off for slightly incongruous reasons so that appropriate plot-driving conversations can take place, dramatic tension, character development, the whole lot. After all this site specific intensity and metatheatrical tomfoolery and clinical interwar nihilistic eroticism and stylised corporate villianry and that bloody cart, a good old fashioned play about people and stuff is quite a breath of fresh air.

The location is a converted priory, the time is New Year’s Eve and the protagonist is Kate, recently dumped, who wants to spend the evening with a group of close friends, without drugs and without drama. Needless to say, these plans make for a boring play and so the arrival of the excitable Laura, the insufferable Rebecca and the insatiable Adam move things up a gear, as do the revelations as to Kate’s real reasons for organising the evening’s celebrations.

For the most part The Priory treads superbly a thin line between comedy and tragedy. There are very funny moments and very horrible moments, funny moments you can’t believe you’re the only one laughing to and horrible moments when you can’t believe anybody else is laughing. It’s not perfect (there’s a date rape joke which feels crass rather than clever and falls very flat), but some sequences are wonderfully pitched, such as the stand off between Kate and Rebecca, where every salvo was met with a laugh or an audible gasp.

The performances are solid, with Jessica Hynes as Kate particularly strong and Rupert Penry-Jones superbly, although somewhat predictably, cast as charming and unreliable.

The Priory runs until 9 January at the Royal Court. Book here.