Off the King’s Road is a light comedy that certainly entertains but doesn’t have the heart needed to elevate it to greatness.

Off The King's Road

Off the King’s Road is the first full-length play written by Neil Koenigsberg who has had a long and rich career in film. Lead actor Michael Brandon is a long term friend of the writer as is Jeff Bridges. Bridges appears in the play as an e-actor appearing by Skype as Dr Kozlowski. So it’s a star studded cast and when it opened recently at Jermyn Street Theatre there were a couple more stars in the audience for good measure.

There is much to recommend in this play, not least the quirky, offbeat doctor played by Bridges. The narrative is simple and ought be relevant to the majority of any audience.

Brandon’s character, Matt Browne has travelled to London in an attempt to deflect the misery of his grief at the passing of his wife. Acting under doctor’s orders, he struggles in his attempts to resume a form of normality in his life. When he is overwhelmed he skypes his doctor. Dr Kozlowski is wakened by the calls and incoherently hands out advice.

There are two twists to the tale.

The first is in the form of hotel resident Ellen Mellman, a cat loving eccentric and lonely woman who sees Browne as an attractive possibility for love. She is aided in her pursuit by their mutual love for the films of Ingmar Bergman. Cherie Lunghi gives a heart warming performance as Mellman, easily endearing herself to the audience.

The second diversion begins with a surprise admission by protagonist Browne that he has secreted a blow up doll in his luggage. In a later scene, the doll appears to great comic effect. Seeking a more satisfactory solution to his needs, Browne visits a Russian prostitute, Sheena, played by Diana Dimitrovici.

The scenes with these two are rich in humour and not a little whimsy. Browne turns out to be a reaching out for companionship and softness more than rampant sex. Dimtrovici plays Sheena with compassion and understanding.

Connecting the multiple storylines is Luke Pitman as Freddie, the hotel manager. Pitman delights and entertains, appearing to know everyone and everything. His lines are delivered with great comic timing.

In this intimate theatre space, there is room for little more than the hotel bed and a huge television, but this minimal space is used to great advantage by director Alan Cohen aided by the design of Claire Lyth.

The single set manages to contain the hotel room, the front desk and the corridor outside the room allowing for much business at the door. Movement around the set effectively defines the space.

Clever changes of the bedding and use of a different entrance changes the hotel room into the work space of Sheena. It is heartening to see clever design that credits an audience with the imagination to accept dramatic license.

Matt Brown, the video designer (not to be confused with the male protaganist) has done a superb job with the ‘skype’ chats, ensuring that these segments are as real as possible in the inconsistency of the quality and obscure camera angles.

Brandon manages the complex demands of speaking within the rigid recorded timing with panache and little interruption to the flow of the dialogue. There is also clever use by Brown of the television screen showing images ranging from London travelogue visuals to spaces on the set.

The lighting designed by Alex Marshall enhances the whole and particularly utilises the large expanse of white curtaining to great effect.

In style, Off The King’s Road has the overall feel of being an episode of a television sitcom. There are fine performances by the cast but apart from the main character Matt Browne, there is little scope for depth or development within the script. Brandon creates a wellcrafted character who grows from being contained by his grief into a man with greater freedom and hope for the future.

Off the King’s Road is a light comedy that certainly entertains but doesn’t have the heart needed to elevate it to greatness.

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Viola Patrick
Viola has been obsessed with all things theatre since she was young and first encountered the Les Miserables soundtrack. Totally hooked, Viola later studied Theatre at Reading University, where she was able to perform on stage, as well as writing and directing her own material. She has written theatre reviews for newspapers and magazines and is looking forward to joining the exciting world of LivetheatreUK.com and online reviewing.