Posts Tagged ‘Clare Dunn’

This very original and inventive piece is ostensibly about market research, and focus groups in particular, but it’s more than that – it’s sub-title is ‘How to stare down and transfigure loneliness’. It’s created by Stu Barker, Clare Dunn and Terry O’Donovan, who also perform, but it says it’s ‘after’ deceased American novelist David Foster Wallace, though I’m not sure why.

The audience are in two banks of seating, facing each other. Whilst one is the focus group, in the first instance being asked questions about a food brand, the other is being asked to spot types and characteristics in the audience facing them. You can’t entirely hear what they are saying on the other side, intentionally. There are further sessions where each group has a different task. In between, the relationships of the three researchers and their absent boss unfold whilst they play table-tennis, but the focus is mostly on Terry, whose life we peer into in more detail in a series of rather haunting impressionistic scenes. Eventually we get to sample and give feedback on a new cake!

It’s very clever in the way it draws you in and engages you. The participation isn’t in the slightest bit uncomfortable. The jollity of the focus groups is an extraordinary contrast to the dead silence during Terry’s story. There’s insight into market research, but more than that. I’m still processing it.

Only two more performances, but on tour later in the year. Do catch it.

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Oh, I do suffer for my art. In this case an unbroken 2h10m on the most excruciatingly uncomfortable grey plastic moulded chairs in the new Donmar Covent Garden Women’s Prison. It was worth it though.

There’s a real sense of deja vu as you’re led up the back stairs to a very similar space which you were in a couple of years ago for the same team’s all-female Julius Caesar. The entrance and the programme are new, but otherwise this is very much the second in a series; women prisoners staging a play.

Henry IV is not only reduced from two parts to one, but cut to 40% of their combined length. We’ve lost whole scenes, a lot of verse and a surprising number of characters (almost 30!), yet it hangs together as a cohesive story of the last days of a king, full of rebellion, and his wayward son who eventually reforms to inherit the crown. I always thought these plays had a lot of padding; here’s the proof!

Most of it works extremely well, particularly Hal & Hotspur’s one-to-one as a boxing match and all of Falstaff’s scenes. In a fine cast, Ashley McGuire is a superb Falstaff and Jade Anouka a terrific Hotspur. Clare Dunn is excellent as Prince Hal and there’s a most auspicious professional debut from Sharon Rooney as Lady Percy.

Because the production is so similar to their Julius Caesar, it doesn’t have that ‘first time’  thrill that did, but it’s well worth seeing. I do wonder if it would be wise to do a third in exactly the same way, though.


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