Comic Potential: London Premiere ReviewsComic Potential opened in the West End in 1999. This page presents extracts from some of the major reviews of the London premiere of the play.
Daily Express (by Robert Gore-Langton)
"Laughs and thoughtfulness come generously packaged in a play that locates tenderness of heart between the hardware."
Daily Mail (by Michael Coveney)
"The great joy - and one great joy in an evening is surely enough - is the performance of Janie Dee as Jacie, a role she was born to play. She totters hilariously as a robotic machine unthawing into humanity and a love affair."
Daily Telegraph (by Charles Spencer)
"What's startling about Comic Potential is the amazing range of ground it covers, leaping from sharp satire and caper comedy into a funny, fascinating, surprisingly moving inquiry into what it means to be human…. It's an evening of pure pleasure, though the second time around I belatedly realise that the final several seconds qualify the play's ostensibly happy ending."
Evening Standard (by Nicholas de Jongh)
"The play makes satirical fun of actor's ability to be chameleons and mocks our obsession with the computer, that fresh, controlling force in our lives. It also provides a mocking, comic premonition of the even lower, mindless depths and infighting to which television will sink in the new millennium."
"Ayckbourn ponders the relationship between men and women, but also considers the fact that when we create something, we seek to control it. And at the very core of the play is the question of what it means to be human… This is an astute, big-hearted play that even as it makes us laugh, asks us why we do so."
The Guardian (by Michael Billington)
"With a mixture of progressive feminism and professional cynicism, Ayckbourn suggests both that women are the likely source of humorous rebellion in a mechanised future and that television will increasingly be run by humanised androids….[Ayckbourn] is still seriously funny, and he has written a role that shows [Janie] Dee to be a bright, particular star."
The Independent (by Paul Taylor)
"The Pygmalion myth is given a weirdly futuristic twist in Alan Ayckbourn's new play Comic Potential. Though you may come out fretting over the flaws in its logic, you know that it will haunt you for a long time afterwards."
Mail on Sunday
"It's Jacie's tragic potential, as she struggles with evident pain and confusion to express an unprogrammed emotion, that makes her one of Ayckbourn's most fascinating creations. That she can never be human, however, is the unresolved tragedy."
"In Jacie's mechanical musings about love, commitment and sacrifice, Ayckbourn explores the delight and pain behind very human, vital emotions."
New York Times (by John Simon)
"It's called Comic Potential, and it's a masterpiece…. A version, then, of the Pygmalion story, an android becomes humanised by love. But also a hilarious social satire, a disquisition of the nature of comedy, and a wistful commentary on the power and precariousness of love."
"In what must be one of the funniest plays of the year, he [Ayckbourn] has made possible a phenomenally talented performance. Janie Dee, an actoid with a human touch, has fixed eyes, wooden limbs, unpredictable chortling and sudden sweetness. She is chilling, disarming and ridiculously, expansively funny."
The Spectator (by Patrick Carney)
"This is millennial comedy just as it ought to be, tackling serious issues with weirdly wonderful invention and with the kind of exquisitely tuned humour that win a little more mileage for such humanoids as are still abroad."
"The two most immediate things that need to be said about the play are that is is often gorgeously funny and gloriously inventive. Ayckbourn weaves cunning variations on his original plot device, and where there is a recurrent gag - Jacie's habit of responding to inadvertent cues with lines from past scripts, for instance - skilful timing and adroit craftsmanship ensure that it keeps coming up fresh."
Sunday Times (by John Peter)
"The comedy becomes probing, poignant and perilously funny. Isn't real life a series of scenes you are required to play, even as you wonder who wrote the script? Isn't your personality a set of conditioned reflexes? Dee's performance, both heart-braking and deliciously funny, is a jewel glittering in Shaftesbury Avenue."
All reviews are copyright of the respective publication.