Brash, brazen and brilliant: Carey Mulligan turns up trumps in a one-woman show

With her pixie crop, impish features and doe-like eyes, Carey Mulligan looks just as I’d imaged she would. This, however, is promptly sliced through with a thick cockney accent that spills out of her mouth, spewing graphic sexual escapades, endless profanities and phrases like, ‘That was end of my drinky, druggy, slaggy phase’. Yes, this is a Mulligan I’ve not seen before, but judging by her performance you’d think she’d been playing this part for years. 

Girls and Boys Royal Court Theatre review Carey Mulligan

The part is that of an unnamed woman who, after observing a man in the queue for an easyJet flight, ends up marrying him, having two children and embarking on a life of domesticity. Mulligan’s character moves from one moment chatting casually to the audience, to being immersed in life with her two young children. Writer Dennis Kelly and director Lyndsey Turner set a light-hearted scene with their new play – the audience spends most of the first three-quarters laughing. But it quickly turns to tragedy as we learn the fate of the youngsters at the hands of their father.

Girls and Boys Royal Court Theatre review Carey Mulligan

It’s a brave move on Mulligan’s part. A one-and-a-half-hour one-hander, Girls & Boys sees her alone on stage for its entirety, hurdling back-and-forth over the fourth wall with Olympic-esque ease. Her charisma, comic timing and palpable comfort in her role make her lack of a company almost unnoticeable, but she’s never so magnetic than when simultaneously gripped in grief and eerily calm at the loss of her children. 

Girls and Boys Royal Court Theatre review Carey Mulligan

It’s a timely piece too: references to the societal tension between men and women are (purposefully?) pointed, especially coming out of the mouth of a woman in ‘Hollywood’. The penultimate speech includes the line, ‘We didn’t create society for men. We created it to stop men.’ You could almost hear Meryl Streep whooping from across the pond.

Until 17 March
Hospitality There may be no official hospitality, but The Royal Court Bar & Kitchen can accommodate groups of six plus on long tables or in a semi-private space at the rear – cracking menu too.
Eat & drink Manicomio Chelsea, Polpo Chelsea, The Thomas Cubitt

Photos Marc Brenner