Britons crouching by the radiator for a shred of warmth should take themselves to London’s Wyndham’s Theatre for a wittier type of relief this winter.

The Unfriend is a nimble comedy that straddles the dramatic and the domestic in a pleasingly implausible scenario.

Written by Steven Moffatt and directed by Mark Gatiss (the talented creators behind the BBC’s Sherlock), the play exploits the extremes of British manners, and asks that timeless question: what’s the polite thing to do when your houseguest is most likely a murderer?

TV’s Lee Mack (Would I Lie To You, Not Going Out) and Sarah Alexander (Jonathan Creek, Coupling) play a suburban couple who unwittingly invite a suspected criminal into their home after meeting said woman on holiday.

News Shopper: The Unfriend plays at Wyndham’s Theatre until 9 March 2024, with tickets from £25. ( Manuel Harlan)The Unfriend plays at Wyndham’s Theatre until 9 March 2024, with tickets from £25. ( Manuel Harlan) (Image: Manuel Harlan)

Both husband and wife deliver seasoned stage-sitcom timing, and the reluctance to approach their guest despite the circumstances is recognisably credible.

Frances Barber is adroit as the bolshy American, Elsa Jean Krakowski, who inserts herself into the couple’s life and their children’s hearts.

Barber’s performance wears all the character traits of a true con woman – she is ever so slightly sinister, charismatic, and somewhat elusive.

It’s a production highlight and now I wonder why Barber isn’t just in everything.

Recommended reading

The Unfriend plays at Wyndham’s Theatre until March 9 2024, with tickets from £25.

This is a return to the West End after a successful run in early 2023 and it’s not surprising given the smooth and lively entertainment it provides.

It’s not a play you’ll ponder upon, but it’s certainly a solid comedy of manners with a few surprises to hand.

Written By: Steven Moffat
Director: Mark Gatiss