Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn in True West at The Vaudeville Theatre

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Posted by May B on Sunday 16th of December 2018

At times unnerving and at other times darkly humorous, this tense tale of sibling rivalry by Sam Shepard – set in the heat of the American desert – draws you in, holds you on the edge of your seat and then leaves you hanging.

From the rather slow start, the intimidating and unpredictable Lee (played by Johnny) stole the show. He emitted the inherent wickedness of a fearless and lawless bad boy. Kit (playing Austin), meanwhile, convincingly conveyed the writer’s angst of never being quite good enough alongside the desire to break free and step into the shoes of the anti-heroes in his stories.

The contrast between the brothers is acute: Educated vs. experienced, settled vs. drifting, family vs. single, good vs. evil, literary vs. larceny, brain vs. brawn, clever vs. smart and solid vs. unstable.

Violence bubbles under every exchange – even when they are collaborating. The appearance of the producer and the mother characters are really sideshows to the main action between the two leads. And the gradual role reversal makes compelling viewing.
The stage is set as an ordinary open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge – with an interesting play on perspective. The cricket and coyote sounds define the atmosphere. The latter scenes, where the heat of the desert outside echoes the grill of a toaster, provide a neat link to this aspect of the story.

I’m truly cured of my Kit Crush – seeing him as a bespectacled and bullied middle-aged guy in overtight shorts and socks. But my admiration for him as an actor has grown.

True West plays at The Vaudeville Theatre in The Strand until 16th February.


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