The Acid Test

KATHARINE ELLIOTT enjoys a trip through an urban alcoholic’s jungle in a show that tackles all the major first world issues.

Alcohol bourgeois Check Warner Corpus Playroom dad dancing edgy funny katherine elliott mainshow party Royal Court sophie crawford

Corpus Playroom, 18th – 22nd October, 7pm, £5-6

Dir. Check Warner


Entering the Playroom on Tuesday night was like walking into one of the disorganised student rooms we all know so well: a plethora of wine and gin bottles, washing drying precariously in one corner and band posters attached – not with blue tack I swear! – to the white-washed walls.

The audience instantly relaxed into this familiar world and as soon as the cast exploded, or drunkenly danced, onto the stage, the laughs began to roll out. Throughout the night, the guys (well guy) and girls played their respective parts to perfection; every hysterical outburst, every despairing nosedive into pillows and every drunken giggle was superbly acted.

Photographs by Nienke Boomsma

Brid Anstein’s Dana, whose unselfconscious drunken dancing set the mood for the rest of the play, was intriguingly performed; the almost apathetic ‘counsellor’ figure whose relationship with a ‘hot ginger’ finally erupts into an expression of regret and profound (though denied) self-loathing. Her partner in the ‘single life = double shots’ philosophy was the hilarious though heartbroken Ruth (Hannah Phillips), whose break-up is the catalyst for the booze-up. Phillip’s portrayal of the schizophrenic shifts between hysteria, anger and tender nostalgia was perfectly executed; never over-acted and a consistent source of raucous laughter.

Sophie Crawford’s Jessica provided a contrast to the characters of her two flatmates. She was the sober figure, the one who can’t escape her concerns despite the flowing bottles of alcohol – the member of the drunken party that we’ve all been at one point or another. Crawford’s intense depiction of seething rage and aching discomfort added an atmosphere of distinct, edgy uneasiness to the otherwise ‘fancy-free’ party; reminding the audience of the problems residing at the bottom of each wine-glass.

Quentin Beroud’s Jim – the embarrassing dad – was equally hilarious, managing to show a character transition from lost-and-pathetic to stoned and Socratic. His philosophy subtly pointed the finger at the generic flaws inherent within the play’s four characters. The volcanic chemistry between Jim and his daughter Jess provided stunning emotional flashpoints in this otherwise comic piece; both actors conveyed the frightening intensity of this relationship well.

Underlying these outstanding performances was Anya Reiss’ innovative and naturalistic script. The characters were profound, appealing and instantly recognisable – an opinion that was obviously shared by my fellow audience members. The brilliant dialogue was witty, fast-paced and packed with a mix of casual cultural references – Star Trek fans would be very gratified.

This romp through emotional trauma, stark moments of self-realisation and familiar phases of drunken bopping is undoubtedly one of the best plays that I’ve seen, both inside and outside of Cambridge’s golden bubble.