Review: Life, the universe and family drama in Mosquitoes, National Theatre
There are five ways the world will end, we are told by a scientist (Paul Hilton), but Luke's (Joseph Quinn) world is ending, not because of particles and black holes but because of that incident, in the bedroom of the only girl that talks to him.
Luke is clever and bright, he comes from an intelligent family. His mum Alice (Olivia Williams) is a brilliant scientist working on the Hadron Collider, his grandmother Karen (Amanda Boxer) was also a scientist and his grandfather won a Nobel prize. His aunt Jenny (Olivia Colman), on the other hand, prefers reading horoscopes and Googling answers to questions. Luke thinks she is stupid and so secretly does Alice and, not so secretly, so does, Karen.
As the Hadron Collider is about to be switched on tragedy throws the family together and it will be more than particles colliding in Geneva.
Mosquitoes mixes art and science examining intellect versus emotion and the extraneous variables that human nature brings to life. It puts family and parenting under the spotlight; Luke and Alice may be clever with computers and physics but they stumble when it comes to relationships. Jenny is led by emotion, making decisions that her family would say lack intellectual rigour, with painful 'told you so' consequences but she shouldn't necessarily be written off, there are stronger bonds and human needs that science can't help with or explain.
Amanda Boxer is a joy to watch as the incontinent granny who's memory is going, shuffling in and out of scenes while delivering lines, which on paper shouldn't be funny. While Joseph Quinn brilliantly balances precocious, underwhelmed and disengaged teen with social awkwardness and flinching embarrassment.
Despite all their flaws these are characters I enjoyed spending time with. The two hours 50 minutes running time (including an interval) flew by and I felt a little bit disappointed when it was all over. And while very occasionally the direction feels engineered to milk the humour, I'm giving it 5 stars.
Mosquitoes is on the Dorfman stage at the National Theatre until 26 September. The run is sold out but Friday rush tickets and day seats are available and you can also check for returns.