Unreachable – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Heaven’s Gate; IMDb

A play about a totally dysfunctional film set

Anthony Neilson’s play Unreachable was performed in London in 2016 at the Royal Court with Matt Smith in the lead role (yes Dr Who / House of the Dragon Matt Smith).

Neilson is known as an experimental playwright and Matt Smith chose to do it because he thought it sounded “weird and cool” but said also (jokingly?) that it might possibly be “career suicide”. It wasn’t. They play was very well reviewed, but he was taking a risk, as it was based on improvisation, which he said was “unnerving”, and the topic and the characters were, well, weird.

Six young actors who go by the name of OldDog Theatre Company will be performing Unreachable for Theatre at the Tabard on 18 – 22 July. They chose it, director and actor George King told me, because it is an ensemble piece which is funny but also has some “heart-wrenching” scenes.

The play is set behind the scenes of filming for Heaven’s Gate, a Western historical drama from 1980 that has become legendary because it was such a disaster on set. You will find it in lists like CNN’s Screening Room’s ‘top movie shoots from hell’.

Image above: Christopher Walken in Heaven’s Gate; IMDb

The director Michael Cimino went way over budget; he did things like designing a road which he then ordered to be dismantled and moved three feet back; he had a tree cut apart and then reassembled and built a whole underground irrigation system to keep the greenery vivid.

The filming took so long that one of the lead actors, John Hurt, had time to go and shoot all his scenes for The Elephant Man in between shooting for Heaven’s Gate and co-stars Kris Kristofferson and Jeff Bridges got so bored they decided to start a band together.

It was slammed by critics and did badly at the box office as well.

Image above: Isabelle Huppert and Kris Kristofferson in Heaven’s Gate; IMDb

You can see how this would be fertile ground for a play. One of the characters in Unreachable, an actor who George says is based on the German actor Klaus Kinsky, was known for his “most imaginative insults” during emotional and often violent outbursts aimed at his directors and fellow cast members.

The character in the play also has a “gargantuan ego” and “incontinent sexual appetites.” There are secret affairs and even murder attempts.

While all this is going on, the film director is on an obsessive quest in search of the perfect light.

Sounds fun.

Image above: Four of OldDog Theatre Company – George King, Izzy Dunn, Matt Deane and Julia Green

OldDog theatre company are mainly former ArtsEd students, who although still in their early 20s already have an impressive amount of experience between them, having worked on dramas for Apple TV, Disney and Netflix as well as in West End productions.

Unreachable is on at Theatre at the Tabard from 18 – 22 July. Book tickets on the Theatre at the Tabard website.


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