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Posts Tagged ‘Jack Farthing’

It’s hard to believe Patrick Marber’s second original play is twenty-five years old. Apart from a brief appearance by a dated mobile phone, it could be now; indeed, it seems more now than then. It was also his last truly successful original play, though he went on the produce some excellent adaptations and to an auspicious career as a director. Anyway, this is a timely revival, even if it does feel like a new play.

Dan, Alice and Larry meet by accident. She has been in a minor accident which Dan observed. He takes her to hospital, where Larry, though in passing rather than as the relevant doctor, gets briefly involved. We shoot forward a year and Dan & Alice are in a relationship (he’s left his partner for her). He’s an obituary writer, wannabe novelist, and he’s written a book about Alice’s past as a stripper. Now we meet Anna, a photographer who is taking pictures for the book. Dan tries to date her.

There’s a brilliant scene where Larry and Dan posing as Anna meet in a chat room. This is followed by a meeting between Larry and the real Anna, who realises Dan has played a practical joke. All four meet at Dan’s book launch and from here it’s a complex web of relationships between them, love, infidelity and marriage, secrets and lies. None of them appear to have any moral compass. It was a touch long (on the hottest day ever with the Lyric Hammersmith’s air-con seemingly non-existent) but it’s a very clever piece with genuinely interesting characters. It draws you in to the point where you can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next.

Clare Lizzimore’s production is edgy with a totally contemporary feel. She’s added atmospheric live music by Arun Gsosh plus four ‘extras’ posing in the background ( though I didn’t really see the point of this. The cast are simply terrific. Sam Troughton is loud and passionate as Larry, contrasting with Jack Farthing’s quiet and sultry Dan. Nina Toussaint-White plays Anna as very anchored, in command of her own destiny, whilst Ella Hunt is mesmerising as the waif-like Alice.

Great to see it again and to see how it resonates as much, if not more, today. I think that might be the sign of a classic.

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I’m a big fan of both designer Miriam Buether and director James Macdonald, but why on earth didn’t they check the audience sightlines when they were creating this? Their failure to do so certainly spoilt my evening – from my top price seat! If you’ve already got side seats, change them now. If you haven’t booked, make sure you’re in the centre.

Mike Bartlett’s new play takes Edward Snowden as its starting point. We’re in a Moscow hotel room with the Snowden-like character Andrew and a woman who appears to be his ‘handler’. She’s rather off-the-wall, playful and cheeky. In the next scene there’s a male ‘handler’ with the same name, much more earnest and serious, but the woman’s back for the next scene. Assumptions are made by Andrew (and us) about who they represent – Wikileaks he hopes – but ambiguity reigns as we explore the ease and consequences of leaks and the idea of identity. Nothing is what it seems, which is the theme of the rest of the play and it’s coup d’theatre. Sadly on the night I went a technical glitch halted the final scene and by the time it restarted people were playing with their phones, then the sight lines (which hadn’t been good at the sides from the start) got so bad (particularly on the right facing the stage) it rather spoilt it, but I won’t spoil it for you by saying more.

I’m also a big Mike Bartlett fan, but this isn’t his best work. It’s a good rather than great play, like many of the others. Notwithstanding the sightline issues, it’s well staged and very well performed by Jack Farthing as Andrew and Caoifhionn Dunne & John Mackay as the ‘handlers’. It’s hard to ignore my personal experience and no doubt it affects my view, but I’m a full-price paying punter so I’m entiltled to it and to share it. Sorry, Hampstead, but you need to see things from the audience perspective if you want to please them.

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