True West has recently made its way to the Vaudeville Theatre in London, starring Kit Harington following his long-running stint in Game of Thrones. However, this play is far from becoming a popular hit like the TV show.
Sam Shepard’s True West, for the most part, is a duologue between two adult brothers; having been apart for 5 years their lives cross paths once more. Austin (played by Kit Harington) is writing and plotting a new screenplay. He has decided to stay at his mother’s house in sunny California whilst he tries to set up a deal with his producer, Saul.
His wilder and freer spirit brother Lee (Johnny Fynn) arrives just as Austin is close to victory. Lee not only comes to steal his younger brother’s thunder but his job too. Throughout the story, tensions start to grow and eventually, Lee makes the decision that Austin should write his movie instead.
Matthew Dunster has split the production into two very distinctive halves. The first 40 minutes allows the audience to learn more about Lee’s intimidating presence and his very unsettling tone. Flynn does work very well to keep the audience guessing about his character’s intentions; whether it be to be malicious towards his younger sibling, or to just try to achieve his own dreams.
The second act allows Harington’s character to shine through slightly; slowly becoming more carefree and appears less trapped. Although Flynn and Harington are in the process of building a great relationship together, it just isn’t quite there just yet. And even then, we only tend to see this in the second act. Dunster has not found the right balance that can help the first act flow into the second act and this means that the first act is hard to get into and does not draw the audience in as it should. It also doesn’t quite hit the spot when it comes to the final chilling moments in which the brothers undergo a brutal encounter.
The set itself is set up by Jon Bausor and is good displaying a working-class home in 70s California, and helps to set the scene. However, it is sometimes ruined slightly by the stage crew constantly resetting it. Although they work efficiently they somewhat diffuse the tension that the two brothers have set up and near enough wakes the audience up out of the trance that some of the dialogue and tensions will have drawn them into.
All in all True West just doesn’t quite hit the mark. The play couldn’t find the quality of Shepard’s writing and does not allow the two actors to show off their acting skills as much as they would have probably liked. It makes for an entertaining evening but perhaps not worth making a special trip.