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THE FLICK T


he stirring soundtrack of an epic movie fades, the lights go


up and we’re in the dismal maroon environment of an ailing cinema in Nowhereville, Massachusetts, facing the tipped-up rows of seats with the projection booth at the rear. In come two cleaners, Sam (Matthew Maher) showing newbie Avery (Jaygann Ayeh) the ropes. Over the next three hours we


get to know them and projectionist Rose (Louisa Krause) and how they live inbetween the screenings. We watch them sweep and slump and bicker and form alliances which will ebb and flow. Sam is middle-aged and still


living at home, by turns hopeful or in a trough of despond. When asked by Avery what he wants to do when he grows up, you feel every ounce of despair in his cry “I am grown up!” For Avery it’s a part-time job to get him through college and back into the world following a suicide attempt. His encyclopaedic knowledge of film leads Sam to test him on six-degrees-of-separation casting games. It passes the time. He has designs on getting into the holy of holies and becoming a


By Annie Baker National Theatre - Dorfman, Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX 020 7452 3000 Reviewed by Jarlath O’Connell


projectionist. Rose, already in the role, clumsily seduces him, mostly out of boredom. She meanwhile has to handle the burden of Sam’s unrequited passion for her. It’s Chekhov but with popcorn


under foot. Rose is a spiky young stoner, a


coiled spring of anxiety with hair that starts ginger and turns green. In a rare moment of revelation she bemoans how she can’t stay attracted to anyone for more than four months. What singles out Annie Baker’s


Pulitzer Prize winning play, which has transferred here from New York in a production by Sam Gold, is how audacious it is in offering us up the ordinary, unadorned. The sheer tor- por of this world of minimum wage, no status labor, is something which most writers would steer clear of as undramatic. Nothing happens, but that’s exactly the point. This is no exercise in Becket- tian minimalism though. Baker has an admirable command of plot, character and structure. What some might call longeurs are actually what she is getting at. She brings a novelist’s eye for detail in animating


this sad trio, her point being, ordi- nary is in the eye of the beholder but some people just don’t look. She has talked in interviews about how, when young, she would write down verbatim what people she’d come across actually said. It has borne fruit here because her dialogue and its silence rings true with a delicious familiarity. Nothing is ever artful.


Baker set the play in 2013,


the year that digital finally swept celluloid from our cinemas for good. Avery, committed to the romance of film, writes a letter to the new owners to object, with fatal consequences for him. Baker wisely never widens the lens beyond this group however. We never meet the cheapskate owner or the guy from head office to engage in these arguments. Our trio, after all, are powerless. The two American cast mem-


bers, who are well steeped in the roles now, are simply sublime, but they meet their match in a wonder- ful British newcomer Ayeh. There isn’t a false note between them nor in this masterful, tender and witty play. In short, a gem. 


The American 59


© PHOTOSHELTER


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