I like to see Nancy Carroll in a role where she can dominate proceedings because I reckon that when she is in that kind of part, she’s pretty fab. If I used the phrase I’d say she was electric. I spent most of the play wishing and willing her to shake a little vitality into the piece but I’m not sure that the material allowed for it. I felt it was Niamh Cusack that had the stronger part and even though Nancy Carroll was of stage for almost thew hole play I could muster a great deal of enthusiasm for or interest in her character.
Additionally Zubin Varla who is usually an actor I look forward to seeing wasn’t quite as sexy or hypnotic as the play seemed to suggest his character should be.
The play was done ‘in the round’ and something I think I’ve noticed about plays ‘in the round’ (mainly at the Orange Tree in Richmond) is that there is almost always a control-room bias, where the performance seems mostly to be directed towards the lighting/stage/sound control room where, presumably, the director sat during rehearsals. This tends to mean that the further you are from the control-room, as an audience member, the more that there is a distance between you and the action and you often look at the back of actor. Another disadvantage of ‘in the round’ productions is that you can often have some actor’s back blocking your view of the rest of the actors. Some directors experienced in ‘in the round’ productions manage to strike a balance between keeping actors shifting the angles and stopping it from looking like a whirling dance. In the play the material and the direction seemed a little static.
Something about the set that I found almost unforgivable was a piece of set used as a window or door onto a garden. It wasn’t the objects (windows and doors) but the fact that they were placed in between two banks of seating (opposite the control room) in line with the backmost row. The result of this careful planning was that people sitting in rows E, F and G get several minutes of action (split over the play) taking place behind them. This is where I was sitting and it wasn’t until the interval that I saw the picture of a sculpture of a prone figure that served as a backdrop and may well have had a significance lost on me because I had my back to it.
Reading the programme notes it appears that this play was finished by a colleague after the playwright committed suicide. I couldn’t help thinking of Sarah Kane’s play 4:48 Psychosis which was also written shortly before the author’s suicide. Of course that’s pretty much where the similarity ends; I probably just wanted to show myself my erudition.
Finally I found myself being annoyed in the early part of the first act by the sound effect of a collared dove (I think) cooing its three syllable song. The only thing that calmed me was the thought that a critic might mistake the sound for the call of the cuckoo (the first two syllables of each bird’s call sound similar but the cuckoo is more strident and the collared dove has an extra syllable) and then mention it as being a significant clue to unlocking the mystery of the play. I would then be able to feel superior to them and all would be well.