Even the most popular plays have their critics and nothing is universally admired. Something you like, someone else will despise and a production you loathe will inevitably be adored elsewhere (even if only by the director’s parents). Oh, The Humanity and Other Good Intentions is a series of short plays by Will Eno, that have transferred to the Soho Theatre after an Edinburgh run, and are very hit and miss – neither entirely charming nor disarming.
Rather than following an overarching story we follow different, isolated characters across multiple situations; a coach addresses a press conference, an airline spokeswoman is curiously inept, another character brings up the house lights. While the plays vary in quality, the cast – encompassing Tony Bell, Lucy Ellinson and John Kirk – are unanimously talented.
The second short play is the most impressive, a beautifully written piece focusing on two lonely people filming awkward (and wonderfully funny) video introductions for a dating service, never interacting with one another but remaining perpetually theatrically connected. Simply on the strength of this piece the night is commendable.
The whole collection is staged well; limited props and a simple backlit set focus attention on the actors and monologues (which are in turn punctuated by Eno’s immensely quotable witticisms). Unusually the set changes are a pleasure to watch: slickly danced rather than more common time-creating diversions.
Ultimately though it is a mixed bag, as despite the top notch acting some of the plays fall a little flat and don’t have the same impact as others, which, occurring minutes apart are hard not to compare. However, even if every play isn’t to your personal taste, there should be something for everyone to enjoy in Oh, The Humanity.
*** (3 STARS)
Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions plays at the Soho Theatre until October 13th.