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Review: Belleville

Hidden agendas:
Imogen Poots and
James Norton play
American couple
Abby and Zach
who live in Paris



Donmar Warehouse


MARRIED American twentysomethings Zach and Abby, played by British stars James Norton and Imogen Poots, are the kind of couple others want to be.

He’s a doctor for a charity fighting infant disease, she’s an actress. Both are beautiful, live in bohemian Belleville in Paris and apparently have just enough money to be both poor and chic.

Even their cool Senegalese landlord (Malachi Kirby) seems ideal. He’s the kind of guy with whom Zach can relax with a pipe of hash in their pied-à-terre after a satisfying day of saving babies. It’s the kind of situation that could work as a sitcom. But US playwright Amy Herzog has darker intentions.

The moments in which Zach is left alone betray hidden agendas.The recreational drug taking might be an addiction and his easy-going charisma — played perfectly by War And Peace star Norton — begins to look like a front for something more sinister. Poots — as comfortable as a tough cookie fighting neo-Nazis in horror movie Green Room as she is in the light comedy of US series Roadies — puts her talents to use as Michael Longhurst’s production spirals from romance to thriller.

But the apparent point of Herzog’s play — that no one ever really knows anyone, no matter how close they are — is hardly revelatory. And while the Paris setting might have given the play an exotic sheen for American audiences, here it comes across as affectation.

Still, there is one satisfying outcome. By the end no couple will want to be like these two.