The Comeuppance ★★★★★ Almeida Theatre | Apr 6 - May 18, 2024

Faced with the twin threats of plague and war, the Danse Macabre was a common artistic subject in the late Middle Ages. In The Comeuppance Branden Jacobs-Jenkins revisits this concept in our own time of Covid and conflict. As they approach their twenty-year high school reunion, five friends are faced with the passage of time and its inevitable consequence. Death becomes a character haunting them at the feast of life and neither the doctor nor the artist can stay the inevitable result of time's pressing on. There's a lot to unpack in Jacobs-Jenkins' work, but first and foremost it resonates as a story of friends who are reliving their misadventures and memories. The existential question is nicely wrapped in humour and humanity, and we actually come to care about the members of MERGE, or the multi-ethnic reject group, as they were known in high school. In a wonderfully evocative set created by Arnulfo Maldonado, the action takes place on a porch, that space between home and the world. It is here that the partially-sighted Ursula, nicely played by Tamara Lawrance, welcomes her friends to a pre-reunion gathering. First to arrive is Emilio (Anthony Welsh), the eager artist who in school pined for the underachieving and abused Caitlin (Yolanda Kettle), but who actually dated the religious, future doctor (Katie Leung). She arrives with her damaged, ex-soldier cousin Paco (Ferdinand Kingsley), who was not really a member of MERGE, and whom Emilio remembers as his rival for Caitlin's attention. The pieces are now in place for an alcohol-fuelled evening of revelations and recriminations. The cast face some challenges, with a couple of speeches seeming a tad overwritten and the difficulty of not overplaying inebriation, but generally they bring it off, and The Comeuppance stands out as a compelling piece of playwriting.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Marc Brenner

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