The Unfriend ★★★★ Wyndham's Theatre | Dec 16, 2023 - Mar 9, 2024

Steven Moffat's The Unfriend is a light and lovely comic confection based on a premise that we can all identify with. What if that 'vacation friend' to whom you said "we must keep in touch" actually showed up in your real life and decided to stay? And to make matters worse, what if you found out she might be a serial killer? This delightful little comedy cleverly plays on American and British stereotypes: the former being direct, overly demonstrative and exuding a hint of menace, and the latter shown as introverted, excessively polite, and reserved even within their own family. Surprisingly, in this case, the over-the-top American guest ends up bringing some balance and benefits to the family life of their buttoned-down English hosts. However, if a point is being made here it really isn't fully developed. Any thesis of the show is sacrificed to the plethora of gags that run from some sharp wordplay to bathroom buffoonery. As Elsa, the Trump-admiring houseguest who may, or may not, have poisoned her family, Frances Barber is an absolute delight. She completely nails the part of the effusive, but slightly sinister, intruder into this typically English family. Lee Mack as Peter, her reluctant and totally flummoxed host, is also seriously funny, although sometimes Mack overplays his bits of business. Sarah Alexander does a fine job as Peter's wary and put-upon wife. Her impatience is hilariously palpable as she attempts to manage an impossible situation. Director Mark Gatiss brings a nicely deft touch to the show and never lets the pace lapse. In this latest return to the West End, The Unfriend is a more than welcome guest!

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Manuel Harlan

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