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Posts Tagged ‘Doug Lucie’

Like the proverbial bus, another Doug Lucie play (well, two actually) comes along just over six months after Hard Feelings was revived at the Finborough. One of these hasn’t been seen since its Royal Court premiere 24 years ago and the other has never been on stage, so it’s a double double treat. They weren’t written to be played together but they are a perfect fit for a satisfying evening of issue theatre.

Doing the Business is about arts sponsorship and artistic freedom. It was written in 1990, but is just as relevant today. Peter and Mike were at Uni together and now one is artistic director of a theatre specialising in new writing, visiting the other who is some sort of sponsorship broker for big business. Mike’s theatre is desperate for money and Peter is happy to oblige – with conditions. Jim Mannering & Matthew Carter play the two-hander well, though it was a little static with them sitting across a desk for virtually the whole play. Lucie’s presentation of the issues, though, is faultless and the dialogue sparkled.

Blind was written as a radio play 12 years ago and has been revised by Lucie for this first stage production. This time the theme is artistic patronage as we meet two artists and their very different patrons. Maddy is the conceptual one, all installations and life-laid-bare (think Tracy Emin) and Alan a modern but more traditional painter. Alan’s benefactor, who provides his studio, is a retired porn king whose interest seems genuinely artistic. Paul is a more calculating art dealer (think Jay Jopling) whose interest is more commercial. Between them they play out the patronage vs exploitation debate in short snappy scenes with cracking dialogue. Janna Fox is superb as in-your-face Maddy, all of her thoughts and feelings on show. Cameron Harle is excellent as Alan, more restrained and thoughtful. Daniel York is terrific as scheming, manipulative Paul. It doesn’t quite sustain its length, but it’s a treat nonetheless.

These are great issues for plays and Lucie is the right playwright to tackle them well, with enough edge and bite but with a coolness to match. Huge congratulations to Triple Jump Productions for bringing them to us. Let’s hope the Lucie revival continues. Progress or Fashion anyone?

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The Finborough Theatre has an uncanny timeliness when it comes to revivals. If you ignore the clothes, decor, period references and what’s going on outside the Brixton house in which it is set, Hard Feelings could easily be a contemporary play. This could be because nothing’s really changed or it could be that we’ve gone full circle.

Doug Lucie’s play takes place during the 1981 Brixton riots. A bunch of Oxford University graduates are sharing the house rich kid Viv’s parents have bought for her. You have to keep on the right side of Viv and fellow rich kids Annie & Rusty do so by providing her with a drink and drug fuelled social life and sex. Working class Baz (who sells frisbees!) and trainee lawyer Jane opt for the quiet life, not joining in but not challenging, as Viv becomes more and more of a control freak day by day. Jane’s boyfriend Tone, a left-wing cockney journo, is afraid of no-one and brings some welcome home truths with news of what’s happening outside, something that for them is just getting in the way of having fun. This is Thatcher’s Britain, so there’s no such thing as society. Only two are left to join Viv in welcoming her parents.

It’s a slow burn at first, but it draws you in to this world. It’s a credit to Isabella Laughland, Margaret Clunie & Jesse Fox that I hated rich kids Viv, Annie & Rusty almost enough to get out of my seat and give them a slap! I also wanted to shake Nick Blakeley’s passive Baz and tell him to grow some balls. Zora Bishop does well transitioning from compliant Jane to angry Jane and Callum Turner is testosterone on legs as brittle Tone. Stephanie Williams’s uber-realistic (and, for me, nostalgic!) design is brilliant and in James Hillier’s excellent traverse staging you’re virtually in the room with them.

Doug Luice wrote 15 or so plays in the 80’s and 90’s (and just into the 00’s). They were produced at places like the Bush, Tricycle, Royal Court, Hampstead, Lyric and even the RSC. I saw seven of them, including the first London outing for this play 30 years ago, and just can’t understand why he isn’t revived more. He doesn’t even get a Wikipedia entry! What would we do without the Finborough? Indispensable theatre, unmissable revival.

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