None of the critics expected to be able to praise Macaulay Culkin's British stage début, but he and Irène Jacob are equally impressive.
In this memory play, Culkin portrays Carl, recalling his seduction as a fifteen-year-old American in Paris by teacher Claudie (Jacob). Although the show's marketing may trade on Culkin's former child-star status, the actor himself is in very different territory: his Carl is not a grinning little angel, but awkward, diffident, sometimes outright surly as he negotiates the difficult territory both of the seduction and of Claudie's subsequent explanation of what lay behind it. Similarly, Jacob's characterisation is not assured and siren-like but uneasy, even furtive, notwithstanding the opening-night nerves which clearly afflicted both actors when I saw the show.
Richard Nelson's play amounts to little more than marginalia about his perennial concerns of displacement and collisions between the Old and New Worlds, and his own direction of it is scarcely more than journeyman. It is Jacob and Culkin who make it special, and well worth seeing for more than just big-name "scalp" value.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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