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Zach Braff's All New People, Duke of York's Theatre, review
Charles Spencer welcomes All New People, a play by the endearingly nerdy junior-doctor hero of Scrubs Zach Braff in the West End.
New plays are worryingly rare in the West End these days, so it is a pleasure to welcome Zach Braff's All New People, a smart, sharp New York hit which richly deserves to prosper here.
Braff, who stars in his own play, is best known as the endearingly nerdy junior-doctor hero of Scrubs, the slick and enjoyable American hospital sitcom. Here, the mood is darker, but often just as funny and this 90-minute piece never outstays its welcome.
Braff plays a sharply-suited character called Charlie, who at the start of the play is discovered standing on a chair and preparing to hang himself in a smart holiday home on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, to the unlikely accompaniment of the Riverdance soundtrack.
With the noose around his head, he is smoking a last cigarette and scrupulously trying to flick the ash into a distant ashtray.
Then he is interrupted, accidentally falls off his chair and swings around in his noose to the horror of the estate agent who has just entered the premises. It's a great start and the blackly comic gags rarely let up after that.
The property agent – an Englishwoman working in the States without a green card – helps save the suicide's life and summons her friend, a drug-dealing local fireman.
Then a high-rent prostitute turns up who has been dispatched for the night by one of Charlie's friends, who knows he is down in the dumps and wants to cheer him up. And at about this stage you expect the play to turn all gooey and sentimental on us, as American comedies so often do.
In fact, the jokes keep coming, and the moments of deeper emotion feel earned rather than schmaltzy. One becomes genuinely interested in all four of these misfit characters, knocking back the booze and hoovering up the cocaine, and their back-stories are amusingly illustrated in stylish film sequences that briefly interrupt the stage action.
You are also kept wondering just why Charlie was attempting suicide.
He explains that he has killed six people, much to the initial panic of the estate agent who find herself alone with a self-confessed mass-murderer, but the full story doesn't become clear until the end. I suppose you could complain that the piece is a touch slick, the ending a little too neat and cosy, but this strikes me as a comedy that combines structural skill with genuine heart and I was hooked throughout.
Braff abandons the cuteness of Scrubs and finds an edge of darkness and despair in the suicidal Charlie, as does the splendid Eve Myles as the lonely, guilt-haunted Englishwoman on the run from her home country.
Paul Hilton has some delightfully droll moments as the dope-dealing fireman while Susannah Fielding offers a comic tour de force as the dim but delightful tart with a heart.
No one could accuse All New People of excessive profundity, but it combines the comic and the poignant with undoubted panache.
What others had to say...
'Zach Braff's West End debut goes down a storm' Katie Nichols Mail Online
'Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party on drugs' Sam Dowler, Now Magazine
'The jokes keep coming' Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph
'Laugh out loud comedy' Indie London
'Excellently cast and stunningly acted' Sam Dowler, Now Magazine
'Definitely reminded me of a Neil LaBute play though in its dark humour sense' Delphine Chui – Grazia Magazine
'It's a career-best performance from Braff' Joe Ellison, Shortlist
'Susannah Fielding offers a comic tour de force' Charles Spencer The Daily Telegraph
'Extremely funny and brilliantly acted (especially Eva Myles)' Matthew Looker - Virginmedia.co.uk
Zach talking with ShortList.com about All New People, what he loves about England and more - Watch Here
Further cast announced for All New People, written by and starring Zach Braff
Award winning actress Eve Myles and Royal Shakespeare Company actress Susannah Fielding are confirmed to star alongside American actor Zach Braff (Scrubs and Garden State) in his UK stage acting debut of the new comedy, All New People. This witty play, written by Braff, will be directed by award-winning Peter DuBois.
Eve Myles is best known for her role as Gwen in the BBC1 series Torchwood and has also appeared in Doctor Who, Belonging, Merlin and EastEnders. "I'm delighted to have been cast as the character of Emma in such a well anticipated and funny play," says Eve. "Having concentrated on TV work recently I'm excited to be returning to the stage and I'm very much looking forward to working with Zach and Peter."
Having made her name on stage as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, Susannah Fielding has recently been seen in TV shows including Wallander, Doctor Who and Pete Versus Life. "I am very excited to be appearing on the West End stage in All New People," says Susannah. "With such a witty script and some fabulous lines, I am really looking forward to getting my teeth into playing the role of Kim."
All New People
Brand new comedy written by
and starring Zach Braff
Opens at Duke of York's Theatre
on 22 February 2012
American actor Zach Braff (Scrubs and Garden State) is to make his UK stage acting debut in a new comedy, All New People. The witty play, written by Braff, will be directed by award-winning Peter Dubois.
All New People will open at the Duke of York's Theatre on 22 February 2012. Before arriving in London for a strictly limited 10-week run, audiences in Manchester and Glasgow will get the chance to enjoy the play when it is staged at the Manchester Opera House, between 8 – 11 February and the King's Theatre, Glasgow, between 14 – 18 February.
This angst-fuelled comedy saw New York's Second Stage Theatre packed out nightly and received rave reviews from US critics, with its present day dilemmas and take on four very different characters way of life.
In the dead of winter, at his wealthy friends' luxury Long Beach Island apartment, Charlie (Zach Braff) has hit rock bottom on his 35th birthday. Away from the rest of the world, this perfect escape is interrupted by a motley parade of misfits who show up and change his plans. A hired beauty, a fireman, and an eccentric British real estate agent desperately trying to stay in the country all suddenly find themselves tangled together in a beach house where the mood is anything but sunny, while Charlie just wishes they'd leave and let him get on with it.
Best known for the smash-hit TV comedy Scrubs - nominated for 17 Emmy Awards and watched by over 22 million people worldwide – writer, director and star of the award winning Garden State, Zach Braff is a three time Golden Globe nominee and Grammy Award winner. Peter Dubois was awarded the Callaway Award for Excellence in Directing from the Society of Stage Directors, and recently won the Elliot Norton Award for Best Production from the Boston Theatre Critics Association. Earlier this year DuBois directed Becky Shaw at the Almeida Theatre, which was nominated for an Evening Standard Theatre Award.
The UK production will feature an all new cast and further casting announcements will follow.
"Zach Braff scores with All New People, a morbidly funny play about the trendy new existential condition of being young, adorable and miserable." - Marilyn Stasio, Variety.
"Sensationally funny! The jokes are delivered with the precision of ace dart throwers in this slick and lively comedy." - Charles Isherwood, NY Times.
"All New People is a hipper, edgier take on the bantering comedies that were once the domain of playwrights like Neil Simon." - David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter.