Late Company review: Powerful play about cyberbullying ★★★★

A dinner party takes a tragic turn in this compelling, beautifully acted play at Finborough Theatre

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Finborough Theatre is the perfect venue for the British debut of this powerful play by Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill.

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Located above a pub in West London, the Finborough only seats a few dozen people, but punches way above its weight when it comes to reputation and influence. For Late Company, the tiny stage is a dining room: a table laid for six, a drinks cabinet, a few pictures. Anyone sat in the front row could reach out and grab one of the wine glasses and may well want to when the tension ratchets up.

The play opens with a middle-aged couple, Debora and Michael, anxiously awaiting the arrival of their guests. As Debora fusses with the napkins and carps about her guests’ tardiness, it’s obvious this isn’t an ordinary dinner party, although the audience isn’t sure why yet.

Their guests arrive: gabbling Tamara, polite but guarded Bill, their monosyllabic teenage son Curtis. There are introductions, half-hearted small talk, weak jokes and slowly the reason for this uncomfortable dinner trickles out: the sixth place is set for Debora and Michael’s son, who committed suicide a year ago after being bullied by Curtis.

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L-R Lucy Robinson (Debora), Lisa Stevenson (Tamara), Alex Lowe (Bill), Todd Boyce (Michael), David Leopold (Curtis); photos by Charlie Round-Turner

His mother Debora claims to want to make peace, but the evening quickly descends into bitter recriminations. It soon becomes clear that everyone played a part in this tragedy. Her son was homosexual but none of the adults are as au fait with that as they pretend to be, and Debora and Michael preferred to avert their eyes from what he son was up to online.

All the performances are superb. David Leopold, who plays Curtis, captures the awkwardness of adolescence beautifully; his quiet anguish is in stark contrast to the noisy self-righteousness of the adults. The intimacy of Finborough Theatre, together with the fact that play is in real-time with no interval, adds to the sense of claustrophobia: Curtis is trapped.

Tannahill wrote this play five years ago when he was just 23. He’s since become one of the brightest stars of Canadian theatre and it’s easy to see why. Late Company is a gripping, devastating critique of societal and parental hypocrisy in the digital age.

Late Company is at Finborough Theatre until 20 May


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