The long running debate on vaccinations, has been brought to the Old Vic’s stage in Eureka Day. Specifically, the MMR vaccine, which has been shrouded in controversy since the 90s, despite it being proven that it doesn’t cause autism, and an investigation showing that the original claims were a result of manipulated evidence. This debate has risen once again recently, over the Covid-19 vaccination – although surprisingly, this play was written in 2018, before the pandemic even began.

© Manuel Harlan

Set in a private school in Berkeley, California, we meet the cast of five at an executive committee meeting for the school, Eureka Day. There’s Don (Mark McKinney) a hapless, Rumi-reading man, that just wants everyone to be nice to one another. His portrayal of Don is quite reminiscent of his character in Superstore. Then there’s Suzanne (Helen Hunt) who’s had a child at the school for over 20 years, and is rather controlling, appearing to passive aggressively ‘womansplain’ frequently. Carina (Susan Kelechi Watson) is a newcomer who at first appears to go along with everything the others say, but eventually feels she can share her opinion, and doesn’t back down. Eli (Ben Schnetzer) is the full time stay at home dad that has rather a lot to say. And then there’s May (Kirsten Foster) who’s angrily knitting most of the time to avoid speaking her mind.

An outbreak of mumps occurs at Eureka Day school, and the committee soon unearth that many of the children are unvaccinated due to their parents beliefs. The play portrays quite a balanced argument throughout, not showing a bias towards one side, which was refreshing and unexpected. 

Jonathan Spector’s script is heavy on the hilarity and satire during Act One. With McKinney and Schnetzer providing most of the comic relief. There’s a stand out scene in which Andrzej Goulding’s video projections show a message chain on a video chat. The actors on stage are in a zoom meeting with the parents at the school regarding the mumps outbreak. With the comments made by parents quickly turning into absolute chaos, it’s ingenious, as for the entire scene the audience are no longer paying attention to what the actors are doing or saying upon the stage. Their focus is entirely on the messages projected above. Act Two however, loses the comic relief which the first Act provided, and quickly becomes more serious. Featuring heartfelt, urgent and impassioned conversations between Carina and Suzanne, regarding their opposing view points. 

© Manuel Harlan

Katy Rudd’s direction is wonderfully paced to begin with, flowing so well that the audience were surprised the interval had already arrived. Act Two however wasn’t as well paced, with stops and starts between the actors speaking, which disrupted the flow of the performance slightly. 

As well as the theme of anti-vaccination arguments running throughout, underlying the script is racial bias. This is shown in the character of Suzanne, who subtly shows an unconscious racial bias at times, and eventually shows this more apparently. Hunt does an incredible job of making this character unlikeable, her passive aggressive tone annoyed me from the start, exactly as the character is meant to. But it is Kelechi Watson that steals every scene, showing many dimensions to her character, and giving a stunning performance. 

The ending of the show was slightly anticlimactic and didn’t fully make sense in regards to Carina’s character development. But, all in all Eureka Day is a hilarious show with a deeper meaning cleverly interwoven throughout the script. There are still some tweaks required for the overall play to feel as satisfyingly good as the first Act did, but this play is an enjoyable watch. Plus Kelechi Watson’s performance is simply astounding, she really is the star of this show. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Eureka DayThe Old VicUntil the 31st of October


{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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