Review – Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre


Photo: Royal Court

A man and woman sit at a table in a dark bar beneath an influential West London theatre.  Exits are upstage (up a flight of stairs to the two auditoriums and box office), stage left (to the toilets) and stage right (to the coat check and a well-hidden lift).  The bar, manned by would-be actors, is upstage in front of an enormous sign bearing the name of the theatre made from mock-industrial metal.

Woman: So what’s it about?

Man: I don’t know.

Woman: Who’s in it?

Man: Don’t know.

Woman: Director?

Man: Rupert Goold? Maybe…

Woman: Why are we going to see it if you don’t know anything about it?

Man: Well, they turn out a lot of good work here. If you don’t book soon then you might miss something.

Woman: If this conversation is going to end up with us talking about Cock again then I’m not listening.

A bell rings.

Announcer: Please take your seats. This evening’s performance of Clybourne Park will begin in one minute.

Man continues to drink his wine slowly.

Woman: Should we go?

Man: Why?

Woman: Because it’s starting in one minute.

Man: No it’s not.

Woman: But they just said.

Man: It’s 7:25.

Woman: But they just said it was starting in one minute.

Man: It’s 7:25. Everybody knows it’s 7:25. They know everybody knows it’s 7:25. Yet they still say it’s starting in one minute. It’s a tradition in the theatre, like saying Macbeth after you sneeze. I think Aeschylus started it.

Man drinks wine slowly. Blackout.


The bar is filled with anxious Chelsea theatregoers who haven’t had a gin and tonic in over an hour.

Woman: So.

Man: Yeah.

Woman: What did you think?

Man: Bit on the…

Woman: Yeah.

Man: Little bit…

Woman: Hmm.

Man: What did you think?

Woman: What did you think?

Man: Well, it seemed to be set in late 1950s America.

Woman: Can’t disagree with that.

Man: Do you think we were supposed to be laughing so much?

Woman: I think you’re on to something there. Actually, I thought what made it so interesting was the underlying tension throughout as a result of the audience’s discomfort.

Man: Almost as if the sophistication of the comedy was enhanced as a result of us not being entirely comfortable laughing out loud?

Woman: Yes. Because it really was very, very funny…

Man: We’re agreed there.

Woman: …but it was never simply something you could just sit and watch like a spectator. Our reactions were as much on show as those of the characters. Almost Brechtian.

Man: You’ve lost me.

Woman: Alright, let’s take it one step at a time.  What did you think of Sophie Thomson?

Man: It must be tough as an actor sometimes, having to hold yourself back so as not to overshadow everyone else on stage.

Woman: No such concerns for Ms Thomson.

Man: Nope. She really dialled it up to 11, didn’t she?

Woman: Can’t deny that. But I liked what she was doing, even if I couldn’t quite work out what it was at times.

A bell rings.

Announcer: Please take your seats. The second half of this evening’s performance of Clybourne Park will begin in one minute.

Man: Not yet.

Man drinks his wine slowly.  Blackout.


Man and Woman enter from upstage entrance, shaking their heads.

Man: Wow, wasn’t expecting that.

Woman: What?

Man: Probably shouldn’t say, in case it spoils the plot for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

Woman: Good idea. But it was quite a strange direction to take the play in for the second half, wasn’t it?

Man: Definitely. At first I was worried that this would dilute the story and that the playwright was abandoning the interesting characters he’d developed in the first half.

Woman: But in the end you think it worked out?

Man: Definitely. What was great about the second half was how beautifully the comedy of insensitivity we were confronted with in the first half was played off against the comedy of oversensitivity in the second.

Woman: Martin Freeman was brilliant, wasn’t he?

Man: Can’t disagree with that – great to see a different side to him. But for me Sarah Goldberg was the stand out.

Woman: Which one was she.

Man: The blonde one.

Woman: Stand out for you, was she?

Man: Yes. Not like that. I just thought her character in the second half rang really true and I thought she performed it perfectly.

Woman: You think she’s perfect?

Man: Look, let’s move on.

Woman: Yep.

Man: So would you recommend your friends and acquaintances visit or call the box office on 020 7565 5000 to get tickets?

Woman: Certainly.

Man: If, for the sake of argument, one of the aforementioned friends was to ask you to rate the play out of, oh I don’t know, five – what would your verdict me?

Woman: A solid four.

Man and Woman exit the bar, forgetting to pick up their bags from the cloak room and running back along the length of Sloane Street when they remember.