Review: The Last of the Duchess and the Ben Whishaw experience
All Ham'let Eve

The review I've put off writing: My City

Sian-Brooke-Julie-David-Troughton-Minken-Sorcha-Cusack-Summers-Tom-Riley-Richard-Tracey-Ullman-Lambert-in-My-City-Almeida-Theatre.-Photo-Hugo-GlendinningIt's been more than a week since I saw Stephen Poliakoff's new play My City at the Almeida and I think it is telling that I don't have being busy as an excuse for not writing about it.

I didn't dislike it enough to feel inspired to write about it immediately and neither was it brilliant. A one word, well sound really, description would be 'meh'.

It's classic Poliakoff in many ways in that it is obvious fairly early on that there is something odd going on. But despite liking what he's done for the telly this just didn't have a satisfactory oddness - if that makes any sense at all.

Tom Riley plays Richard who comes across his old and much loved school headmistress Mrs Lambert (Tracey Ullman) asleep on a park bench. It turns out that she spends the entire night time walking around the City of London.

Richard arranges to meet up with Mrs Lambert to reminisce, together with another ex-pupil Julie (Sian Brooke) and the party soon extends to two other ex-teachers Minken (David Troughton) and Summers (Sorcha Cusack).

And it's all a bit up and down in the enjoyment stakes from then on really. The teachers were renowned for telling the most amazing stories about London's history and so the flashbacks to the teaching days are really enjoyable and engaging.

But then there is a lot of navel gazing about the past and how it can be remembered and why Mrs Lambert walks the streets at night (can you tell I didn't really care?).

*spoiler alert* It turns out that she sees herself as a failure because the kids she taught didn't all go on to do amazing things (Richard lies about having a job and Julie is a receptionist) and at night there is less chance she'll see or hear children and be reminded. All the nightly visits, going to the same cafe's and bars at exactly the same time, essentially giving herself a timetable, just felt affected more than anything else.

She still wears her steely headmistress persona but drinks neat vodka like she's tossing back water without showing signs of being drunk. She comes across as being, well, a little bit cracked. Add in the other two teachers and you've got a right old cauldron of eccentricity that isn't easy to engage with or care about.

And Richard's obsession with finding out Lambert's 'secret' spills over into anger which just feels a little overblown.

It felt like an awfully long play to get to the point where we discover that Lambert feels like failure. But there were some good bits which is why I can't totally dismiss it even if this posts seems like it is.

I'm going to give it three stars and it's on for another week until Nov 5.


 David Troughton was in Season's Greetings at the National with Katherine Parkinson (Mr W's girlfriend in Cock) and Oliver Chris (Nathan Barley)