Theatre: The Spoils review of Jesse Eisenberg’s play at Trafalgar Studios

Jesse Eisenberg is an actor who specialises in playing neurotic, scathing loners. As a playwright he’s equally drawn to acerbic misfits, and in The Spoils he is Ben, a toxic trustafarian filmmaker with a talent for offending everyone he meets. He loafs around his fancy New York apartment, smoking weed and spewing bigoted opinions.

There’s a whole new level of intelligence in the writing; the humour is brilliant. One particular moment stands out as perhaps the funniest thing ever to have happened on stage – at least for people who like puns.

And the characters are fantastically deep. Ben – Eisenberg’s part – is a lazy, weed-smoking, self-righteous, excuse-making, exceedingly bright, pathologically lying prick. Immediately everyone recognises this character. He is someone that everyone knows and Eisenberg uses this familiarity to create rich depth to the character without ever having to explicitly state everything about him.

The Spoils is very much centred on Ben. He’s completely broken but, despite knowing this, and knowing exactly who he is, the audience sympathises with him. They start to see the world and the other characters from his point of view (again through the great writing).

And that’s just the first part. After the interval, all hell breaks lose and everything is turned completely on its head. The audience is pulled back and tossed around. It’s brilliant.

The all-star cast, consisting of The Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar and Game of Thrones’ Alfie Allen (alongside Eisenberg), are flawless. And the two lesser known, but wonderfully talented cast members, Katie Brayben and Annapurna Sriram, never fail to keep pace with the others.

What’s particularly remarkable about both the acting and writing is that not once does it seem like Raj Koothrappali and Theon GreyJoy are on-stage, despite the actors and their personae being known so well.

The Spoils is one of the year’s must-see shows: a perfect example of writing and acting, incredibly funny and dramatically beautiful.

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