The Woman Before, Royal Court Downstairs, London

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The Independent Culture

The Court has been somewhat obsessed of late with murder-mysteries which play radical games with time. Alas, Roland Schimmelpfennig's contribution to this genre proves a deadly evening of the keel-over-yawning variety. Richard Wilson's production starts out promisingly. Nigel Lindsay's long-married Frank opens the door to find his teenage sweetheart, Helen Baxendale's Romy, coolly demanding he keep his promise to love her forever. His wife, Saskia Reeves' Claudia, is increasingly jealous and the intruder has her eye on Frank's son (excellent newcomer Robert Pattinson) as well.

The Court has been somewhat obsessed of late with murder-mysteries which play radical games with time. Alas, Roland Schimmelpfennig's contribution to this genre proves a deadly evening of the keel-over-yawning variety. Richard Wilson's production starts out promisingly. Nigel Lindsay's long-married Frank opens the door to find his teenage sweetheart, Helen Baxendale's Romy, coolly demanding he keep his promise to love her forever. His wife, Saskia Reeves' Claudia, is increasingly jealous and the intruder has her eye on Frank's son (excellent newcomer Robert Pattinson) as well.

Romy is fascinating when she seems like some mad externalisation of Lindsay's mid-life crisis. However, Schimmelpfennig destroys that interpretation, rerunning scenes to fill in the gaps till all is tediously clear. The morbid finale is preposterous, with Claudia spontaneously combusting. Congratulations are due only to the actors for surviving this pretentious, ill-crafted tosh.

To 18 June. 020 7565 5001

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