Review: Rose, Park Theatre - a story of a life of love and tragedy told with wit and humour
Review: Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre - interesting story but stylistically it didn't gel

Review: Eureka Day, Old Vic - sharp and very funny

There is a scene in Eureka Day at the Old Vic during which the audience is roaring with laughter, but it isn't anything to do with the actors who are on stage or what they are saying.

And it isn't a mistake, it is intended, and it's a genius scene for a couple of reasons, how the actors carry on regardless and the relatable source of the comedy.

Kirsten Foster  Mark McKinney  Helen Hunt  Ben Schnetzer and Susan Kelechi Watson in Eureka Day at The Old Vic  photo by Manuel Harlan
Kirsten Foster, Mark McKinney, Helen Hunt, Ben Schnetzer and Susan Kelechi Watson in Eureka Day at The Old Vic, Sep 2022. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Eureka Day is the name of a private school in Berkeley, California, which is welcome to all children. That is until there is a health crisis which tests the ideas and values of five members of the PTA.

At first, the play is a satirical stab at the 'woke' left as they debate the appropriate racial groups to reference on the school's website. Everyone is seemingly doing their best to listen, suggest, understand and reach a consensus without causing offence. And it raises a good few laughs.

Of course, the irony is that they are so busy demonstrating what the school stands for and its inclusivity they don't realise the voices they are trying to include are getting stifled.

However, when a child at the school comes down with mumps, the play shifts gear into the debate around vaccines.

Where it gets very funny is at an emergency meeting about what to do, conducted via live video call with the rest of the parents. The PTA are huddled around one laptop, remaining polite and respectful to each other's views.

Then on the back wall of the classroom set, the comments from the video chat start popping up.

At first, it is a mixture of gossip, random remarks and polite comments about vaccines, but it soon descends into chaos, a mixture of wacky ideas, passive-aggressive comments and plain insults about each other's views.

Ben Schnetzer  Susan Kelechi Watson  Mark McKinney  Helen Hunt and Kirsten Foster in Eureka Day at The Old Vic. Photo by Manuel Harlan
Ben Schnetzer, Susan Kelechi Watson, Mark McKinney, Helen Hunt and Kirsten Foster in Eureka Day at The Old Vic, Sep 2022. Photo by Manuel Harlan

For good measure, there is always someone who makes a seemingly random comment and another whose only response is always an emoji.

It certainly doesn't represent the values the school is looking to instil in the kids and is sharply observed - who hasn't been on a large video meeting with chaos and vitriol reigning in the chat?

Hats off to the cast for carrying on as if they have the audience's undivided attention, and hats off to writer Jonathan Spector and director Katy Rudd for bringing video chat effectively to a stage set.

The second half of the play sees the PTA member's politeness, consideration, and accommodating spirit start to fray as those who are pro-vaccine are pitted against anti-vaxxers. Should vaccinated and unvaccinated children mix? Should they make vaccination a requirement for being accepted into the school?

It becomes more of an examination of misinformation and personal choice vs collective good. As tempers get less controlled, some ugly and painful truths emerge, making for some interesting observations.

Helen Hunt might be the biggest name on the poster, but this is a brilliant ensemble piece; it is sharp, funny, interesting and current. I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

Eureka Day, Old Vic

Written by Jonathan Spector

Directed by Katy Rudd

Starring: Helen Hunt, Kirsten Foster, Mark McKinney, Ben Schnetzer and Susan Kelechi Watsonn

Running time: 2 hours, including an interval.

Booking until 31 October; for more information and to buy tickets, head to the Old Vic website

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