Reviews Roundup: The Comeuppance

The Almeida

Tamara Lawrance and Anthony Welsh in The Comeuppance. Photo: Marc Brenner

Most critics agreed that Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ new play The Comeuppance didn’t reach the heights of An Octoroon. Nevertheless they greeted the story of a group of American millennials now in middle age who look back and face mortality (literally since Death appears) with 4 and 3 star enthusiasm.

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls and therefore may not be accessible]

Let’s start with the high markers. Sarah Crompton at Whats On Stage (4★) was beguiled. She said it was ‘a play about death which is both high comedy and a melancholic exploration of the vagaries of memory and the weight of nostalgia on 30-somethings surviving in a post-Covid landscape’ and described it as ‘a magnificent drama, truthful and haunting.’

‘it’s Bruce Springsteen meets Chekhov, delivered with waspish humour and the modern irritations of missed texts and faulty GPS,’ said Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times (4★), calling it ‘clever, funny and compelling: part social comedy, part danse macabre.’ She added: ‘there’s something poignant about this wry, sad encounter with the inevitability of mortality.’

Debbie Gilpin for Broadway World (4★) was impressed by the way ‘it broaches the trauma of the COVID pandemic in an original and thought-provoking way.’ She also liked the way ‘the blend of humour and drama allows the play to remain engaging.’ ‘Every member of the company has excellent comic timing, as well as great dramatic chops,’ she said, adding’Tamara Lawrance and Anthony Welsh stand out’.

The rest of the pack were more reserved. Fiona Mountford at the I (3★) praised ‘the all-round excellence of the five-person cast’ but said ‘we spend too much of the two-hour running time waiting for Eric Ting’s production to shake itself out of a state of suspended animation and hit full flow.’ Arifa Akbar The Guardian (3★) commented: ‘the production never becomes quite savage enough; the unleashing of rage seems a little polite.’ However, she concluded: ‘Even with its off notes, The Comeuppance is good theatre with eloquent outbursts and awkward wit.’

Andrzej Lukowski at Time Out (3★) had this to say: ‘Finely acted, ‘The Comeuppance’ is a dark, droll, somewhat contemplative comedy about how a generation gets old (or at least, middle-aged).’ Tim Bano in The Independent (3 ★) was even more succinct , calling it ‘two hours of listening to middle-aged millennials feeling sorry for themselves.’

David Benedict in The Standard (3★) praised the ‘warm, carefully paced production’ but found ‘In place of engaging subtext, there’s merely withheld information dragged into the open at convenient moments like in an awkward thriller.’ The result? ‘the play lacks focus and tension evaporates’.

Dzifa Benson for the Telegraph (3★) was disappointed: ‘Jacobs-Jenkins is a fine playwright…On this occasion, however, he doesn’t land his mark.’ He observed: ‘Jacobs-Jenkins doesn’t seem to know what to make of all these calamities.’ For Aleks Sierz at the Arts Desk (3★) ‘the play remains inconclusive and, for me, unsatisfying.’

‘It’s a melancholic, meditative piece with a dash of gallows humour’ said Sam Marlowe in The Stage (3★), ‘it’s as if we’re watching them through a fine veil, groping among its allusions for more solid and penetrating meaning.’

Clive Davis in The Times (3★) was forgiving if its perceived faults: ‘If you can’t help sensing that all the characters are types rather than three-dimensional beings, Jacobs-Jenkins’s sharply sculpted dialogue teases out the tensions that exist beneath the bonhomie. Natasha Chivers’s crepuscular lighting design adds to the sense that we are caught somewhere between reality, a dream and a nightmare.’

The Comeuppance can be seen at The Almeida until 18 May 2024. Buy tickets directly from

Average Critic Rating 3.3★

Value Rating 65 (Value rating is the Average Critic Rating moderated by the typical ticket price. In theory, this means the higher the score the better value but, because of price variations, a West End show could be excellent value if it scores above 30 while an off-West End show may need to score above 60. This rating is based on opening night prices- theatres may raise or lower prices during the run.)

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