Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My City Almeida Theatre review - a delightful suspense


My City
Till 5 Nov 2011
Almeida Theatre
Almeida Street
London N1 1TA
Box Office: 020 7359 4404
"How would you feel if, 15 years after you last saw them, you bumped into the one person who had the biggest influence on your life?"

Some say that a teacher's influence, though brief, is forever. We all have had teachers who inspired us one way or another. Mine was my form teacher when I was just nine. She was the one who introduced me to the world of Roald Dahl. Twits was the first book that she read to us. I could still remember the horrible couple through her lively reading and expressive gestures. Witches came after that and she was halfway through The BFG when the year ended.

As she has the habit of reading us only a chapter per day, I began to prowl the local library during weekends to find out what actually happened in the following chapters, and going into school the following week with a knowing grin on my face while she kept the suspense on for the rest. I just kept reading after that and all thanks to her too.

I sometimes wonder how I would react if I were to meet her along the streets now. That was exactly what happened to Richard (Tom Riley) who met up with his school mistress, Miss Lambert (Tracey Ullman) one day near St Paul's Cathedral, just sleeping on a bench no less. He called out to her, insisted on buying her a drink for all the help he got from her in school and all the attention showered upon him back then.

He could hardly believe that the teacher who was larger than life and cured him of his stammering would now be lying on the bench in the open or "taking a pause", which she called it. Miss Lambert reluctantly agreed and Richard immediately called Julie (Sian Brooke), his schoolmate whom he has kept in touch after all those years, to join them for drinks.

What followed was a curious process of self discovery as pieces of memories came back to Richard and Julie when (Miss Summers) (Sorcha Cusack) and Mr Minken (David Troughton), who taught at the same school with Miss Lambert joined them for drinks.

The first part of the play focused on the nightly sightings of Miss Lambert as she strolled through London. Stephen Poliakoff, who wrote and directed My City, managed to keep the audience in delightful suspense as Miss Lambert revealed tantalizing details about the things and people she encountered.

As the night turned into the wee hours of the following morning, the story took a bizarre turn. Richard brushed aside an indignant Julie and chose to be honest about himself. More importantly, he managed to unearth the reason why Miss Lambert had been going on her nightly stroll in London. Though it turned out to be rather mundane compared to what the story has so far led the audience to believe.

My City, which premiers in Almeida Theatre, is a somewhat philosophical piece with a mix of lighthearted and heavy hitting dialogue, which is enthralling at times. Backed by a strong cast, My City came across as an entirely believable and accessible play.

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