Review: Eureka Day, Old Vic

Not even the presence of an Academy Award-winner in Helen Hunt can lend Eureka Day any dramatic ballast at the Old Vic

If consensus was easy, everyone would do it”

You have to give Jonathan Spector credit for having the foresight to write a play about antivax sentiment back in 2018 when vaccine hesitancy was still a relatively niche term (despite the reprehensible efforts of the discredited Andrew Wakefield). In these COVID-19 times of course, the discourse about vaccinations has been publicised and polarised to worrying effect.

It’s a shame then that he didn’t write a more effective play than Eureka Day, a broad comedy that takes an easy route to lampooning liberal West Coast attitudes rather than tackling the nettle of ideological difference. Which is fair enough, Spector isn’t required to write a daring drama nor has he tried to, but the payoff to that is that this is a trifle of a thing, insubstantial at best.

We’re deep in the midst of the Eureka Day school board meetings as a mumps outbreak sets the cat among the pigeons. This Berkeley, California grouping pride themselves on their extreme inclusivity (here, a subject for mockery) but when the school’s reopening is predicated on children having had the MMR jab, fierce debate ensues as contrasting viewpoints erupt.

The arrival of new board member Carina is a further catalyst, the first black person to join which adds another strand of lightly-touched-upon potential. But between the overplayed virtue signalling and privileged pass-ag behaviour, very little feels really at stake since it is never taken seriously. Affair subplots further detract; overly pat motivations inserted to direct our sympathies.

To be fair, there’s good work. The online meeting (almost outdoing Handforth Parish Council) is hilarious if a little overlong. And Helen Hunt, Susan Kelechi Watson and Mark McKinney battle valiantly to bring depth to the lacking script. Katy Rudd’s production was far more popular with what felt like everyone around me but as per the play, it is hard to let people have their own opinion when you know that yours is right… 😉

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Eureka Day is booking at the Old Vic until 31st October

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