With Nail and Without Nail – Camden People’s Theatre, London

Reviewer: Andrew Houghton

Writer: Maria Telnikoff

Director: Lauren Tranter

With Nail and Without Nail is a queer, feminist, absurdist comedy and the latest hit by Maria Telnikoff. Having achieved critical acclaim with My Dad Wears A Dress and All The Men Are Going To Hate Me previously, it is no surprise that her contribution to the Camden Roar festival is another crowd-pleasing slam dunk.

Taking (very loose) inspiration from the cult-classic 80’s film Withnail and I, Telnikoff’s play follows two out-of-work actors who decide they need a holiday. Chakira Alin and Rachel Andrews are extremely likeable protagonists who display an amusing balance of pessimism and delusion while making a complete mess of their holiday trip.

Alin and Andrews, under the talented direction of Lauren Tranter, are comedically talented. The production is so cohesive in its off-beat style of humour, it is clear that everyone involved understands the assignment. As a result, the audience relaxes from the very first beat of the show, confident in the light-hearted and ridiculous hour about to unfold.

There is almost an element of schadenfreude in viewing this production, particularly for fellow creatives who understand this tough industry. However, the actual comfort of this show comes not from ‘being seen’ in the characters’ relatable career struggles, but rather from the heartwarming presentation of friendship between the pair. Telnikoff beautifully demonstrates that, even at life’s toughest, having a best friend who can pick you up and make you laugh is an absolute gift.

Alin and Andrews capture the natural rhythm of close friendship incredibly well, operating on their own delightfully quirky frequency throughout. Translating the intimate, individual humour of friendship to a wider audience can sometimes be a tricky beast but this duo lift Telnikoff’s script to endlessly entertaining heights. The audience is quickly and completely recruited onto the friends’ manic thought train.

With Nail and Without Nail is short, sweet and, much like its title, very stupid. Fans of the famous 80’s flick may recognise the vague premise, but this play is an experience of its own. So come one and all, because this universally entertaining comedy is not to be missed.

Runs until 14 June 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Delightfully quirky

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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