Review: The Unrest Cure, Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead

Greeted at the door by Pentameters founder Léonie Scott-Matthews, we are welcomed into the theatre like long lost relatives. This small studio space may lie hidden in Hampstead, far from the West-End, but it easily wins my award for warmest welcome! ‘The Unrest Cure’ is in its world premiere, a new production by playwright duo Simon Godziek and Rob Groves, inspired by the works of PG Wodehouse (author of the Jeeves and Worcester stories).

The Unrest Cure tells the tale of Ernest, a hotel owner in West Dorset, who expresses his disappointment with his predictable and middle-aged routine to his close friend James. Having overheard this conversation, brother and sister team Virginia and Charlie, see an opportunity to have some fun and to administer the ‘unrest cure’ in an attempt to liven up Ernest’s dull existence. What follows is a gentle light-hearted comedy as the characters become further tangled in a chaos of their own creating.

Mark Donahue shines as cheeky, spoilt little brother Charlie, while Tom Yeates plays the more level-headed character of James with a delightful innocence. Eva Gray however, struggles to warm into her role as Cecilia, frequently forgetting lines and creating a disjointed presence that distracts somewhat from the script. It is however, surprisingly difficult to warm to any of the characters in the play since none are particularly likeable. There’s bumbling Ernest, who flits between wild episodes of outraged anger to cowardly displays of social anxiety. Cool, calculated Virginia, the brains behind the practical joke, often comes across as selfish and manipulative rather than the intelligent and mischievous character I feel she was originally destined to be. It also feels as though this joke is bordering on being cruel, as we see Ernest and his Sister sacrificing their loved possessions and bending to the will of the young siblings like puppets on a string.

The set is somewhat disappointing and remains unchanged throughout, although the costumes seem to have had a lot of thought put into them with an authentic 1930s feel. Sound production is basic and at times the lights on stage are so bright they blind the audience. Indeed, I was able to read my programme quite easily from the back of the room.

The play promises to be “a literary treasure hunt” and there are some very witty and educated references, not only to the works of PG Wodehouse. There is nothing particularly cutting-edge or original about the production but it certainly has a feel-good factor and makes for a pleasant evening.

The Unrest Cure runs until 26th November
Tickets: £12.00 (£10.00 concessions)

Review by Melissa Phillips

from Robin Foreman-Quercus, Backstage Pass Editor

We have been contacted by Eva Gray, who played Cecilia in this production, to inform us that she felt ill on this particular evening, hence the below-par performance, and request that we remove this review. It is a firm policy at Backstage Pass never to delete reviews unless for legal reasons, but I feel it is only fair that we pass on her message so our readers are kept informed.

“... my poor performance on the 10th of November was due to the fact that I was not well that evening which led to problems with my concentration... and then severe stagefright! ... Sorry that I didn't give the performance that you and the rest of the audience deserved to see on that evening.”

All of us at Backstage Pass hope Eva has now fully recovered from her illness, and we look forward to reviewing her again, hopefully at a time when she is able to perform to her full ability.