Reviewer's Rating

Belleville exemplifies the clichéd but universally relevant notion of ‘nothing is as it seems’, and as a result of its dramatic and complex climax, US author Amy Herzog’s 2011 play resonates long after the cast take their final bow. Abby and Zach are a young married couple, recently migrated from America to Paris. At 28 years old, they personify the troubled, self-indulgent and multifaceted stereotype of the ‘millennial’, while maintaining an enviable bohemian chic lifestyle in the trendy and diverse neighbourhood of Belleville.

Immersed within their cosy and stylish apartment, the audience witnesses 140 minutes of uninterrupted unravelling of the pair’s internal and external secrets and problems, and it’s testament to the detail and authenticity of Tom Scutt’s set that the intimacy between actor and audience remains intact throughout. Although the writing covers various themes and angles, Michael Longhurst’s direction helps to move time along in a sophisticated and intelligent manner, meaning that the chronology of the narrative is credible and the action feels fluid and natural.

Malachi Kirby and Faith Alabi are excellent in their roles as a young French couple that contrast and conflict with Abby and Zach, and their characters have many dimensions that are explored and demonstrated throughout the play. Dominating the majority of the action, Imogen Poots and James Norton visibly pour everything into the execution of their roles, and it’s due to their impeccably emotive and intense performances that the production delivers the impact that it does.

With this play Herzog explores a wealth of subjects including mental health, relationships, grief, addiction, commitment, and possession against the backdrop of a conventionally ‘perfect’ scenario. Belleville, although an extreme representation of destructive dependence on a partner, is a refreshing, visceral and highly passionate production with an exceptionally talented cast.             Not for the faint-hearted, but a worthwhile and enlightening experience.