REVIEW: EUREKA DAY @ THE OLD VIC
🎭 Eureka Day
📍 The Old Vic, The Cut, London, SE1 8NB
🗓 Saturday 22nd October 2022
HILARIOUS AND RELATEABLE
Eureka Day at The Old Vic was written by Jonathan Spector in 2018, but it almost feels more recent than that! It's actually hard to believe that this was written pre-pandemic as the storyline, set during an outbreak of mumps at a small town private school, could have almost been written as a satirical take on the actions and reactions of people during Covid.
We open with the schools executive committee discussing wording for ethnic origin options in a drop down box on their website. This scene feels like a swipe at the liberal left and is actually a bit of a slow start to the play.
Once we're through this scene though the pace picks up and the story is an enjoyable watch. There are a few moments throughout that seem unnecessary, such as an affair between two of the committee members. I don't feel that this added anything at all to the plot, so I'm not 100% sure why it happened. All of the events in the play would have happened whether the affair was happening or not so in a way it felt pointless.
The premise of the story is that there is an outbreak of mumps in the school and this triggers a debate on the MMR vaccine, alongside what actions should be taken by the committee to control the spread.
The decision is taken to close the school and when it comes to reopening, the discussion moves to who should be allowed back to school. Just the children who have been vaccinated, or the entire school? Or should it remain closed until there is no risk at all?
This brings us to without doubt the standout moment of the performance. The committee decides to hold an online meeting with parents to state where they stand on the matter and what decisions have been taken. As the actors perform to the laptop, above them on the stage we see the comments that parents are writing as a response to what they are being told.
This has the audience roaring with laughter as many of the comments are now so common to us after the pandemic. This scene, although funny, brings up the discussion about facts vs the dangers of misinformation as well as conspiracy theories.
The thread of comments descends into a chaotic cultural war with name calling, swearing and accusations of fascism.
The audience is laughing so loud that although the actors are speaking the whole time, you rarely hear what they're actually saying! I think this was the intention of the scene and it really lifted the audience before the interval.
Production Shot: Ben Schnetzer, Susan Kelechi Watson, Mark McKinney, Helen Hunt and Kirsten Foster
Mark McKinney is exceptional as Don, who is the leader of the group. Don is somewhat of a mediator, trying to keep the peace between the characters. He always wants to make everyone happy. McKinney's history of comedic acting really shows as his comic timing is brilliant and he proves that delivering a line in an understated way is much funnier than looking for the laugh. If you haven't seen him as Glenn in Superstore on Netflix then check it out! He is so natural on the stage and it's easy to forget that you're watching an actor perform.
Helen Hunt is interesting as Suzanne. Suzanne has been a part of the committee a long time. Her husband jokes that she has more children just so she can stay on the committee! She likes to be in control and ultimately her views as an anti-vaxxer means that she leaves the group. Suzanne has a good reason for her views though and the revelation of her past kind of comes out of nowhere and you could hear audible gasps from the audience as the story was revealed.
Having a Hollywood star such as Hunt in the cast is obviously a draw for the audience, but this is truly an ensemble piece and each have equal billing and bow together at the end.
Carina played by Susan Kelechi Watson is the newest member of the committee. She is the first black person to be part of the group and I like how she challenges the views of the other characters on certain topics. She was perhaps the most relatable for me and I enjoyed the way she reacted with dignity when breaking down others perceptions of her. It was a breathtaking performance from her.
Ben Schnetzer gives a heartbreaking performance as Eli. His child is hospitalised after catching mumps and you can really feel his pain. Schnetzer gives an extremely realistic and painful portrayal which just makes you want to get on the stage and comfort him.
The final character is May. Portrayed by Kirsten Foster she was, for me, the least interesting character. She is having an affair with Eli, which seems to be the worst kept secret ever! For me though I found that there wasn't as much depth in the character and didn't have an interesting story. That's not to say that Foster wasn't superb in the role.
Overall though, this is a great play and would definitely recommend it. Katy Rudd's direction was beautiful and with a simple and effective set design by Rob Howell, this play works well.
Eureka Day is coming to the end of its run so there's not long if you want to see it. The final performance is scheduled for Monday 31st October. Head to www.oldvictheatre.com to book tickets.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
Production Shot: Helen Hunt and Mark McKinney