Not Now – Theatre Review

NOT now? No, now. This marvellous vignette of a play from the masterful David Ireland is 50 minutes of sheer delight. Angel delight, theatrical delight. See it before its run ends at the Finborough Theatre (Chelsea, London) on November 26 – you will not be disappointed.

Ireland, writer of Cypress Avenue and whose play Yes So I Said Yes ran at the Finborough Theatre last year (review: https://closeupculture.com/2021/12/15/yes-so-i-said-yes-theatre-review/), is a master of words. Not Now is full of wit and rich humour as Matthew (an excellent Matthew Blaney) and his uncle Ray (a wonderful Stephen Kennedy) probe away at each other like professional interrogators – revealing secrets long buried.

The audience enter Finborough’s compact theatre to be confronted by Matthew, rehearsing the opening monologue from Shakespeare’s Richard III (‘Now is the winter of our discontent’). Elvis Presley is playing deliciously in the background (an apt ‘Suspicious Minds’). Matthew is due to fly from his home in Northern Ireland to London to participate in an audition. It’s the morning after the funeral of his father. He’s nervous, tetchy, unsure of himself and undecided as to whether to travel.

Into the breakfast room – strewn with uneaten toast, a pot of steaming coffee and a jar of Golden Shred – bowls Uncle Ray, demanding to see Matthew perform as the Duke of Gloucester, using (not hiding) his rich Irish accent.  

In his late 40’s and a painter and decorator by trade, Ray is an individual of many words and opinions. Stephen King, he claims, is the best writer of all time even though Ray has only read one of his books.

He also has an amusing propensity to get his facts wrong, confusing the likes of George Michael with George Clooney, giving Shakespeare the title of ‘Sir’, and mistaking the Goodfellas for the Godfellas. Ray is honest about himself – a bit of a loser and an individual whose life has been dictated by the bottle.

Photos by Lidia Crisafulli

It makes for great theatre as the exchanges – many laugh inducing – come thick and fast. Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier. Yet the longer the play goes on, the deeper it probes into the lives of Matthew and Ray. Within Uncle Ray’s jumbled brain are dark secrets.

Are Matthew and Ray British or Irish (both are protestants)? Are both of them gay as some family members suspect? And was there more to Matthew’s late father than the son was led to believe? Was he involved in the province’s troubles? Truths are revealed – truths that have remained buried for many a year. For both, it’s all rather cathartic. Family fissures and deep wounds are finally addressed. Despite this, the play never loses its humour.

Not Now is an excellent play that deserves a wider audience. Blaney and Kennedy are a brilliant double act – Blaney’s Matthew rather worthy, Kennedy’s Ray full of shielding bombast. They feed off each other.

The play is skilfully directed by Max Elton who ensures the sparse set (a kitchen table) allows the audience’s focus to remain on the jousting Ray and Matthew.

Theatre at its best. Not an inch of fat in it. Tight, absorbing, funny – but with a poignant underbelly. David Ireland has written a peach of play. I implore you to lap it up.

Not Now runs until November 26.

Visit Finborough Theatre – https://finboroughtheatre.co.uk/

Photos by Lidia Crisafulli

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