Pre-teen Delilah enjoys High School Musical, swim parties and ogling the lodger. Whilst her...… Read more
Pre-teen Delilah enjoys High School Musical, swim parties and ogling the lodger. Whilst her parents throw verbal grenades at one another, they barely notice their 21-year-old tenant starting to notice her.
* * * * This is a fresh, funny and blistering indictment of the way we live, parent and grow to maturity now. Whether you’re 17 or 70, go marvel.
— Daily Telegraph
Spur of the Moment looks at the distance between close family relations and a young girl on the brink of adolescence. It is the debut play by Anya Reiss, written when she was seventeen.
Anya has attended holiday courses at the Royal Court since she was fourteen and progressed from the Introduction Group to the Advanced Group.
Supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation
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4 stars Sam Marlowe, Time Out 27 July 2010
This astute dissection of a middleclass suburban family on the edge of implosion is merciless and meticulous. That Anya Reiss wrote it at 17 is gobsmacking. It’s a remarkably accomplished debut, and could hardly be better served than by Jeremy Herrin’s production, with a doll’s house design by Max Jones that allows us to see simultaneously into every room of an unhappy home where no one’s behaviour is entirely adult.
While Delilah and her friends are upstairs, singing along to ‘High School Musical’, swooning over the lodger and planning her thirteenth birthday party, her parents, Vicky (Sharon Small) and Nick (Kevin Doyle), are downstairs, noisily raking through the rubble of a relationship ravaged by redundancy and infidelity, and too self-absorbed to notice Delilah’s distress. She finds solace with their tenant, lanky 21-year-old Daniel (James McArdle), himself emotionally immature, and when feelings run out of control, they exchange passionate kisses. It’s deeply disturbing: for all her for all her bravado, Shannon Tarbet’s Delilah, with her small, troubled pale face and pigtails, is unquestionably a child, and Daniel’s submission to sexual temptation, and her parents’ neglect, verge on abuse. Reiss captures impeccably both the overheated, high pitched clamour of the pre-teen girls and the scratchy, circuitous marital bickering. This is a startlingly sophisticated play about growing up, parenting and the rampant social sexualisation that increasingly encroaches on childhood. And for Reiss it’s clearly just the start.
4 stars Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph 21 July 2010
My jaw drops. This is the most accomplished debut from a young playwright I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. Anya Reiss was just 17 when she wrote this sharp-as-cat-claws drama about a 12-year-old only child falling head over heels for her dysfunctional family’s 21-year-old lodger. John Osborne was a hoary 26 before the Royal Court introduced him to the world. Reiss has yet to sit her A-levels.
If there’s a crude observation to make, and minor caveat to my praise, it’s that Reiss displays an abundant facility for keenly observed naturalism of a sort that would fit well enough on the small-screen.
She records the world, doesn’t change it. Yet it would be terribly easy, and wrong, to conclude that Reiss, alert to the pressures and hormonal confusions of her own peer group, and with her ear pressed at the wall of adult unhappiness, is simply drawing on direct experience without immense and precocious artistry.
The tyro playwright inhabits different generational mindsets with equal emotional fluency, wit and insight. She reproduces the full entertaining horror of tween girls at their self-conscious, competitive worst, as our heroine Delilah invites her closest frenemies over to her affluent Home Counties suburban home to record High School Musical ring-tones and ogle the lanky young Scot lodged across the landing.
She also details the full excruciating comedy of Delilah’s parents behaving crassly in front of the youngsters. More than that, though, we get a wrenching account of a modern marriage on the rocks, thanks to infidelity, insolvency and spiteful immaturity. In the midst of this acrimonious atmosphere, rife with petty recrimination and pent-up sexual frustration, is it any wonder that the adrift young man and the alienated young girl should draw closer together until they kiss, hug and suddenly stand on the brink of potentially devastating decisions?
As Delilah, Shannon Tarbet makes a matchingly astounding theatrical debut, catching the sulky diffidence, brittle assurance and aching vulnerability of this latter-day Lolita. But there’s fine work from everyone in Jeremy Herrin’s pitch-perfect production, with Kevin Doyle and Sharon Small grimly recognisable as the warring parents, James McArdle all too believably charming and conflicted as Daniel, the reprobate lodger, and Aisling Loftus superb also as his brash, increasingly bewildered girlfriend, just visiting for the weekend.
Ignore the bland title – this is a fresh, funny and blistering indictment of the way we live, parent and grow to maturity now.
Whether you’re 17 or 70, go marvel. 5 stars Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard, 26 July 2010
Wow! Writers over the lofty age of, say, 20, will find themselves watching this and weeping with envy. Anya Reiss, an 18-year-old A-level student, has produced a debut drama of astounding accomplishment which casts a clinical eye over the battleground of the middle-class family as witnessed from a pre-teen’s point of view.
Max Jones’s skilful design does visually what Reiss’s words do aurally, bisecting an affluent family home. From this, we peer into rooms upstairs and down, and view the anguish and anger piling up like dead skin. Yet if Nick Evans (Kevin Doyle) and his wife Vicky (Sharon Small) could stop shouting at each other, they’d notice that their 12-year-old daughter Delilah (Shannon Tarbet) was increasingly taking refuge in the room, and affection, of their 21-year-old lodger Daniel (James McArdle). As expected, Reiss’s sympathy lies with youth, and the irony is that, while the “grown-ups” spout platitudes, Delilah is easily the most emotionally honest character.
The adults might frustrate her but Reiss has nailed with uncanny accuracy the patterns of adult rows, with their tedious trigger words and circular arguments.
It’s not only the writer making a sparkling debut in Jeremy Herrin’s gripping production. Tarbet, in her first stage role, is a revelation, sliding from the self-possession of a pre-Raphaelite model to a gauche girl who loves High School Musical. McArdle, who compellingly suggests a man conflicted and tempted, is in his final year at RADA. We’ll be hearing more of them all, starting with this year’s Most Promising Playwright awards. 4 stars Susannah Clapp, The Observer, 25 July 2010
Anya Reiss is 18. She’s waiting for her A-level results. And her first play has just opened at the Royal Court. It’s vivid and spiky and brought into quick-moving life in Jeremy Herrin’s excellent production.
Spur of the Moment puts on stage the jackdaw chatter, the fluffy vulnerability and the vulture behaviour of pre-teen chicks. They are a teeny-tiny chorus chirruping High School Musical songs, and a gaggle who, avid for experience, heartlessly hoover up the lives around them. Overhearing a marital quarrel, they march right into it – “Is everything all right, Mrs Evans?” – for a laugh. Catching a whiff of sex, they peer round the lodger’s door to watch him making out with his girlfriend. They are like a virus that gets into everything. At one point, the fridge door opens and the girls burst out.
Reiss’s ear for dialogue is so sharp, and her scenes from domestic life so recognisable, that she’s already had to explain that this isn’t a piece of autobiography. The misery that can make someone’s conversation drone like a dentist’s drill may sound as if it has been transcribed (Sharon Small is particularly forceful at putting it across), but the parents tearing into each other aren’t hers; nor, as a 12-year-old, did Reiss snog a 21-year-old lodger and bring him to the brink of disaster.
Max Jones’s immaculate split-level design lets you see in one go the lodger slumped in his room in his boxers, the parents squabbling in the kitchen and the girls in another bedroom listening to their shouting. Unhappiness spreads through this Surrey house like a leak. But it’s an unpredictable, impromptu act that triggers the action, and Herrin’s production shows how easily everything can swivel round, and how quickly misery tips into farce. Characters bump into each other, toothbrush in hand, on the landing, sidle past each other in the hall, just escape confrontation with the slam of one door and topple into it by opening another. In a uniformly strong cast, another 18-year-old, Shannon Tarbet, makes a startlingly good stage debut. And where better to do it than in a play that’s part of a wave lapping over the British stage: that of extreme young talent. 4 stars Maxie Szalwinska, The Sunday Times, 25 July 2010
There was a hoo-ha when Polly Stenham’s debut, That Face, written when she was only 19, was staged at the Royal Court. Here comes another first play by uncannily talented teenage playwright, the 17-year-old Anya Reiss. Like Stenham, Reiss takes a gimlet-eyed look at family dysfunction among the middle classes. Delilah (Shannon Tarbet, superb) is 12 going on 13, and she’s having to grow up fast. Her day- to- day existence in a house in Surrey is dominated by her parents’ rows. While her mother and father air their festering grievances, Delilah begins to harbour a feverish, all- consuming crush on the 21- year- old lodger. Jeremy Herrin’s production nails how parental discord can infect a whole household. And Reiss’s play, though far from flawless, displays a breathless intelligence, and sinks us deep into a collapsing family story.
David Benedict, Variety.com 21 July 2010
It’s one thing to balance a drama about fighting parents with the inflamed sensitivities of their 12-year-old daughter, who is about to have sex with their 21-year-old lodger. It’s quite another to write it as a comedy. The unexpected laughs in Jeremy Herrin’s zinger of a production reveals “Spur of the Moment” as an exquisitely painful comedy of embarrassment. It’s a seriously impressive debut, all the more startling because playwright Anya Reiss is just 18 years old.
Almost an antidote to the hyperglycemia of “High School Musical,” Reiss’ quasi-teen-dream play actually kicks off with Delilah (entrancingly self-assured Shannon Tarbert, also making her debut) and her friends recording a number from the franchise in her bedroom. But they’re at the pivotal age where they not only squeal with delight at the prospect of Harry Potter movies but also at the sexual potential of flaky but hot 21-year-old lodger Daniel (James McArdle).
On Max Jones’ pitch-perfect, two-tiered set, upstairs ecstatic harmonies are contrasted with downstairs marital discord. Parents Vicky (volatile, end-of-tether Sharon Small) and Nick (comically pedantic Kevin Doyle) are bickering about tea vs. coffee. Glistening with spite, their childishly illogical baiting of one another raises laughs of shaming recognition, but things rapidly turn nasty as the real subject of their fighting erupts.
Nick ricochets between apologizing for having had an affair with his boss and then having been sacked, and exploding with exasperation because Vicky cannot or will not forgive him. Even easygoing Daniel is drawn into their risky game-playing as Vicky flaunts the notion that she and he might be carrying on.
Having raised the temperature to the point of comic nervousness with everyone in the house behaving very unwisely, Reiss creates a scene thrillingly rife with undercurrents. Delilah, her parents and Daniel are all on a sofa in the darkened sitting room, failing to behave well while watching a DVD. Under the cover of her parents’ mutual self-obsession, Delilah suddenly kisses Daniel on the mouth and the dramatic heat skyrockets.
Ensuing scenes are a younger, reverse spin on “American Beauty,” but with greater danger. Frighteningly determined Delilah is in the throes of a sexual obsession with older Daniel, who is on the brink of taking advantage of her. With events threatening to spiral out of control, the laughs now catch in the audience’s throats, and it’s at this point that Herrin’s production shows its strength. There are toxic levels of tension — How far will they go? Will Daniel’s girlfriend find out? What will her parents do when the truth comes out? — but he dares to present the scenario as razor-sharp farce.
The comic speed of the action — eavesdropping, snatched corridor conversations, exquisitely timed entrances — never comes, however, at the expense of the sense of (ir)responsibility that stalks the play. Indeed, as the mood turns ever darker, that governing sense is increasingly embodied by the characters, all of whose thoughts and motives are made grippingly legible by Herrin’s actors.
Intricate, inappropriate family behavior may be the stuff of soap opera, but Reiss’ narrative grip, for the most part, ensures it’s considerably more than that. At its best, the play keeps audiences on a knife-edge poised between fascination and horror. That balancing act suggests a degree of detachment that indicates Reiss is not a one-hit wonder but a real writer.