The Orange Tree Theatre’s It Just Stopped was a very promising idea for a play. Unfortunately, it was let down very badly by trying to be clever.
So, here you are, a new thing for this blog: an outright negative review. As per my Reviews Policy, I normally save reviews for plays that are good, or at least have potential, but there are two times when I might give the thumbs down. One possibility is when a turkey is produced by a big-name theatre. I am patient with small-time companies and want them to learn from mistakes, but if it’s an abominable play produced by people who should know better, I reserve the right to give a good kicking. Stephen Sewell’s It Just Stopped is not one of those. Instead, it is the other kind of play that warrants a poor review: a play produced a competent company, with successes under its belt, that I think is going in the wrong direction.
It is only fair that I start with good things about the play. I have no complaints about David Antrobus’s directing. All Orange Tree plays I’ve seen had great acting, and this is no exception. The set design was suitably interesting, especially the jelly-bean tiled wall (because that’s how homeowners designate themselves “quirky”). I must also point out I am at odds with Michael Billington on this one, who has praised the writer for not being afraid to take on lots of big issues on one play. Normally I would agree with this sentiment. But the more things you try to say in one play, the harder it gets. And this play went to the extreme, attempted to cover every issue under the sun, and ended up being incomprehensible on all of them.