Flatpack Theatre: Instructions For Correct Assembly At Royal Court Theatre

Instructions for Correct Assembly, Royal Court Theatre ★★★★☆

Hari Mountford
By Hari Mountford Last edited 6 months ago

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Flatpack Theatre: Instructions For Correct Assembly At Royal Court Theatre Instructions for Correct Assembly, Royal Court Theatre 4
Photo: Johan Persson

Instructions for Correct Assembly is a play on a quest for perfection. This is a dystopian set-up featuring a couple, Hari and Max, who decide to construct a flat-pack robot son from a catalogue.

When the audience learn about the earlier death of the middle-aged pair’s ‘real’ son due to drugs, their attempts to create a new child with ideal qualities makes much more sense.

The same actor, Brian Vernel, plays both their drug-addict son Nick, in flashbacks, and their new robot son Jan, causing deliberate confusion as to whether we are watching the robot son or the real one: this technique works really well. The neighbours, Laurie and Paul, with their picture-perfect life are a relentless comedic duo who provide a further point of comparison between the real and the fake, the messy and the perfect, the natural and the programmed.

Photo: Johan Persson

The physicality of the play is deliberately dystopian: the whole drama takes place within a box-like frame, with a conveyor belt running through the middle of the stage, delivering different parts of the flat-pack son. One slightly bizarre element of the play’s use of physical theatre is the actors all turning into jerky robots between scenes, admittedly slightly off-putting, breaking up the play and feeling somewhat forced.

This play may not be picture-perfect itself, arguably a tad superficial in dealing with these difficult topics, and with questionable use of physical theatre, but is, overall, a funny and heartfelt exploration of our relationship with technology and perfection.

Instructions for Correct Assembly, Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W, 8AS, tickets from £12, until 19 May 2018.

Last Updated 17 April 2018