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Theatre Review: I And You, Hampstead Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:10 31 October 2018

Maisie Williams as Caroline in I and You at Hampstead Theatre picture: Manuel Harlan

Maisie Williams as Caroline in I and You at Hampstead Theatre picture: Manuel Harlan

Archant

Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams makes a superb stage debut as a fiery teenager discovering her place in the world through poetry and music

Maisie Williams (AKA Arya Stark in Game of Thrones) and Zach Wyatt make superb stage debuts in Edward Hall’s production of American playwright Lauren Gunderson’s work. Caroline, trapped at home due to an unspecified genetic illness, is surprised by schoolmate Anthony, who wants to partner on a project about poet Walt Whitman.

Gunderson’s almost real-time 90-minute piece initially suffers from excess repetition – Anthony reaches out, Caroline attacks, Anthony retreats – plus obvious technology commentary and that hoary trope of someone in a clear two-hander threatening to leave.

However, it builds to moments of surprising transcendence, while staying in a teen register: their solemnity, hypersensitivity, and sense of wonder. The pair endearingly connect through poetry and music, with that dawning thrill of discovering their own experience articulated by art.

A fiery Williams skilfully reveals the different layers of Caroline – her prickly defences, unnaturally heightened awareness of how she’s seen by others, poignantly naïve vision of an adult future, and that fumbling transition from goofy child to emerging woman.

Wyatt’s Anthony, too, is in that limbo: an overgrown kid who moves with Tigger-ish speed and talks eagerly about his dad, but who is also coming to understand his impact on the world, and the complexity of adult relationships.

Both let us glimpse who these two were, and could be, individually and together. This exploration of identity is furthered by their study of shifting pronouns in Whitman, and in Michael Pavelka’s wonderful collage-like design of Caroline’s bedroom – disparate elements combining to make up a person.

A climactic twist lands with major impact, while also feeling retrospectively satisfying. Let’s hope this divergence in the Hampstead’s programming brings in a younger crowd; this is definitely a piece that would honour their engagement.

4/5

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