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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew Xia’

Once upon a time we made things in this country, in places called factories, on production lines, where people worked. We exported those jobs to places where labour rates were a lot cheaper. Then we got new factories called call centres, which enabled us to sell things to people more cheaply. When we started buying things online, warehouses joined the call centres as the new factories. At the same time we out-sourced welfare benefits, which became claimant production lines, inhuman, inflexible tick-box processes. This excellent new play juxtaposes both of these phenomena.

Tamsin looks after her younger brother Dean, who has OCD, a life changing condition which the authorities fail to understand. She’s just got a job as an agency temp in the packing department of a warehouse, working alongside Luke, who’s filling time before he continues his education. They are attracted to one another and there’s some charming wooing. At the warehouse it’s all about rules and productivity targets, a bit like those factories where they made things, but more sophisticatedly measured and rigid. The supervisor is empathetic but confined by the procedures. Dean & Tamsin’s unsuccessfully navigate the benefits system while Tamsin try’s to navigate the new world of work. Another play to make you feel guilty about the society we’ve become.

Katherine Soper’s impressive debut is a beautifully written piece, with well drawn characters. Everything about Matthew Xia’s production is sensitive to the material. The performances by Erin Doherty as Tamsin, Joseph Quinn as Dean, Shaquille Ali Yebuah as Luke and Aleksander Mikic as the supervisor are delicate and nuanced.

Great new writing at the Royal Court.

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It’s sixteen years since this Joe Penhall play, probably his most successful (if we don’t count the Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon), premiered at the National Theatre and went on to win awards and transfer to the West End. It starred Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and a young Chiwetel Ejiofor. I must have enjoyed it as I went twice.

We begin at a meeting between trainee psychiatrist Bruce and his patient, afro-caribbean Christopher, the day before his scheduled discharge from hospital. Bruce clearly believes Chris isn’t ready, but Chris is desperate to go home. They are joined by senior consultant Robert, Bruce’s boss, who is very much for discharge, though maybe for reasons of expediency (to free up a bed). 

Bruce and Robert disagree on the diagnosis, somewhere between borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia, and argue, sometimes in front of their patient. We learn Bruce has been sucking up to Robert socially and of Robert’s research into connections between mental health and ethnicity. In the second act, Robert meets Chris without Bruce and this results in an investigation which threatens Bruce’s career. In the third act, the senior and junior doctor play out their disagreements in front of Chris. In all of this, the patient’s interests are somewhat buried.

The play explores the motivations of the three characters as well as issues of medical ethics and racism, but I’m afraid I found it somewhat implausible this time around. Though I am prepared to believe health policies, the need for authority, research and career interests may all affect people’s behaviour, I just couldn’t believe that these two professionals would behave like they do in front of their patient. The acting of David Haig as Robert is unrestrained and over-the-top, as is that of Luke Norris as Bruce in the final act. Somewhat ironically, Daniel Kaluuya’s outstanding performance as Chris is more restrained, subtle and intelligent and his sudden switches from funny to manic are deftly handled.

Jeremy Herbert’s design echoes his one for Hamlet here four years ago, as he requires you to walk through a replica of the stage set consulting room underneath it, on a mystery tour to find your seats in one of the four banks of seating looking down on an island stage. 

I’m afraid I thought Matthew Xia’s production didn’t serve the play well, but it’s worth seeing for another fine performance by Daniel Kakuuya. 

 

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