Zach Braff (or Dr John "JD" Dorian as some of us know him better in comedy-phenomenon Scrubs), has been touring his play, All New People, around the UK this year, starting in Manchester, then up to Glasgow, before finishing with a ten week run on the West End. Unlike the NY production that was put on Broadway last year, Zach is actually performing as the lead, giving theatre-goers the Brafftacular evening of both his sharp writing, and acting talents. And, being the sophisticated, play-watching, arts-appreciator that I am, (as well as a huge Scrubs fan), I was lucky enough to go see it... and more.
The premise is a simple one: Four strangers (well, sort of) meet by chance at a desolate beach house in Long Island, NY, in the middle of Winter. What comes next is a display of the hardships of being young, the regret of the past, and the human curse of belonging vs loneliness. Braff is the bittered and cold Charlie, a guarded and sarcastic guy who we find in a pretty dark place at the start of the play. But he's not alone for long before Welsh actress and star of Torchwood, Eve Myles shows up as kooky-but-with-a-mysterious-past Emma, in a state of desperation to stay in work as to not get sent back to her native Britain. Soon what began as a peaceful "getaway" for Charlie turns into a madhouse as Byron the fire-chief/drug-dealer and Kim the prosti-- "Escort", round out this unlikely quad of varied, humourous and realistic (if a little quirky) characters.
At its core, All New People is a Dramedy, mixing potent and contemporary themes with an edgy comedic balance slickly interwoven throughout. At various points we are treated to visual, pre-filmed back stories of the characters, which set in stone the freshness and post-modernity of the play, and allow a number of laughs to be had that stretches outside the limits of a one set piece, as well as connecting plot points and providing an emotional connection that the audience has with the characters, which they themselves may lack between each other.
Not surprisingly, Zach was great as down-in-the-dumps Charlie, teasing us only slightly with his morbid prologue, and pulling off a pained and tortured soul pushed to the edge. It's certainly a way off from the optimistic, goof-ball tones of JD, and I found it very weird to hear him drop numerous f-bombs throughout from his usually cheery voice. And then there's Eve Myles, who also shines outside of the badass Gwen Cooper of Torchwood, and gives a stand-out portrayal of a woman who's "Damaged goods", yet devotes her life trying to hide that fact.
And once the curtain's fallen and the terrific actors take their bow, letting the depth of the play sink in to the viewers mind, Zach just carries on giving. There was a quite a crowd to greet him outside by the stage door, all gratefully gathered to get a glimpse of the talented 37 year old. Like a true pro, he willingly signed programmes and tickets, and posed for photos with those camera-ready.
Thankfully, I'd picked up the show's script earlier, and so am now in possession of a signed copy from the writer/actor, as well as this very exciting picture:
The conversation between us went a little like this:
Zach: Hey thanks for coming.
Me: Yeah, it was really, really good.
Zach: Thank you so much.
Me: I'd ask you to Eagle with me, but it seems a little inappropriate here...
Zach: (Laughs) I get that request a lot, as you could imagine.
Me: Ha, yeah. Okay, thanks man.
Zach: No problem, thanks, take care buddy.
And yes, I totally had a fantasy where he said "There's no such thing as inappropriate!" and gracefully lifted me onto his back while we screamed "EAGLE!" to our hearts' content...
So in summary, this was an incredible night. Not only did I see an amazing new play, but got a picture with one of my favourite actors, as well as a signed script, which will all add to my collection of awesome, famous-people-related things. If you can get down to the Duke of York's Theatre in London before the end of April, and if there are any tickets left, then you really should consider going, even if it's just for a glimpse of the man himself.