Carey Mulligan shocks and shines in 'Girls & Boys' at the Royal Court Theatre, London - review

"A gut-wrenching performance from an extraordinary actress in a class of her own."


(Above image: Marc Brenner)

This is one exciting project. A new play by Dennis Kelly, directed by Lyndsey Turner and starring Carey Mulligan in a solo 85 min. monologue.

It’s an excellent night of theatre – it’s laugh out loud funny, deeply unsettling and by the end you’re stunned and shocked to the core.

Mulligan is a fantastic actress not usually known for her warmth on stage or screen. However here she exudes charm, vitality, sexiness, wicked humour and charisma - enough to reduce an entire theatre to complete silence.

Photo: Marc Brenner

She takes us on a journey of her relationship with a man she met in the queue for an EasyJet flight through to their marriage, children and then the inevitable decline. These speeches are interspersed with scenes of her in a domestic setting with two children.

Mulligan is the doting mother, the one who wipes faces, cleans floors and pacifies quarrelling toddlers. The woman who address us directly is the professional, the one who takes us on the journey of her relationship with cool detachment and complete control.

It’s impossible to say too much without giving away spoilers but a looming dread starts to take hold. Sometimes it’s just a pause, a turn of the head or a slight falter over a word that suggests something monumental.

When the ending finally comes you could hear a pin drop. This is a play about parents and children and the potential for darkness within us all.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Mulligan takes centre stage, arms by her sides, a twinkle in her eye and simply talks. There are no gimmicks, no ‘actor tricks’ to fall back on, she commands attention through sheer skill, talent and charisma. It is a stunning performance that is elegant, precise, controlled and nuanced.

In short, it’s a masterclass that should simply not be missed and marks an extraordinary moment from an extraordinary actress.

Rating: 5/5

Girls & Boys plays at the Royal Court until 17th March. For more information visit

Words: Matthew Hyde