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Posts Tagged ‘Clare Lizzimore’

I booked for this play a long time before the election was called, so it was pure co-incidence that I went the day after it. Though it isn’t a play about politics, they are a significant presence, and seeing it on Friday added a certain resonance.

Widower Andy has been estranged from his daughter Maya for three years, six years since his wife died. He’s had no contact since and doesn’t know where she is or what she’s doing. Someone tells him she was seen in a coffee shop in the town and he sets out to get a message to her to meet him on neutral ground on Christmas Eve. He books and decorates a community hall and waits, but is interrupted by Natalie, who has come to collect crockery. She grills him about why he’s there and they end up replaying his last conversation with Maya, Natalie suggesting why it might have triggered her departure, but it turns out Natalie isn’t a total stranger.

It’s a play about communication, particularly across generations. How we fail to listen, misinterpret, offend, often unintentionally, and how damaging these breakdowns in communication can be. One person’s humour can seem patronising to another, badly delivered feedback can cut like a knife. It’s often very funny but as it progresses it touched a nerve with me and I became quite emotional, identifying with situations like this. Elliott Levey is superb as Andy, brilliantly carrying the first half-hour as a monologue, as he waits. Amber James invests Natalie with a confidence and emotional intelligence and her sparring with, and influence on, Andy was great to watch. When we meet Ellen Robertson’s Maya she’s cold and distant, but its her arrival that tears at your heartstrings.

When you walk into the Kiln, it does feel a bit like stepping back in time, because designer Jeremy Herbert has either revealed or recreated the Foresters Hall that the space once was. Clare Lizzimore’s direction is nuanced and sensitive to the material. My only quibble is that I would have preferred it at 100 minutes without the interval, which felt like an interruption.

A lovely new play, another gem from Mike Bartlett.

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Mike Bartlett’s play about corporate bullying packs quite a punch given that it runs under an hour, perhaps proving less can be more. Verbose playwrights take note.

We’re looking down into a space not unlike a boxing ring, the audience on four sides on six or seven levels including ‘ringside’ standing. There’s just a water cooler in the space with Thomas, Isobel and Tony. They are on edge, waiting for the boss to come. He’s going to choose who stays and who goes. The process isn’t entirely clear (well, not to Thomas anyway). One of them won’t survive. Isobel and team leader Tony play psychological games on Thomas. Tony has withheld information from him, so he’s unprepared. The taunts get personal and more vicious until Carter arrives to confirm the cull.

The tension starts before the play begins, with loud rock music, a bit like the build up to a boxing match. It gets ever more taut and cruel as it progresses and the bullying continues, pointlessly, after the deed is done. There’s a coup d’theatre towards the end which ratchets it up one final notch and we’re left with a tragic image of defeat. It would be funny if it wasn’t so real – in my experience of modern corporate life, this isn’t the slightest bit implausible – but there are laughs, some uncomfortable, some relieving tension. As I was thinking ‘is this what we’ve become?’ I looked around the audience and was a bit horrified by the lack of compassion on others’ faces. As I walked through the bar at the end, it appeared to be full of people who could have been characters in the play.

It’s brilliantly staged by Clare Lizzimore within another of Soutra Gilmour’s extraordinary ‘environments’. Adam James and Eleanor Matsuura are so believable as the bullies I wanted to enter the ring and come to Thomas’ aid. Sam Troughton is outstanding in his emotional roller-coaster ride as Thomas and Neil Stuke is cool and unemotional as Carter.

The play affected me more than I thought it would or could. I wasn’t laughing as much as others because it was making me angry, sad and disillusioned. It’s essential theatre though, putting the ugliness of the corporate rat race on view. If only the audience reaction was more compassionate.

 

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