Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Hamlet For Girls
Barefoot In The Grass
Venue: The Spaces On The Mile @ Raddison
There’s the strong feel of autobiography in this piece that covers themes from friendship, love, and the longing for a child. The script, by Lizzie Conrad Hughes (who also appears as the lead character) is charming and believable.
The direction, however, is too loose, too casual, and even when the well written arguments with believable dialogue are delivered, it feels more like recital than well rehearsed drama. “Love has to be natural”, one character points out, not unjustly. It’s a criticism that could be levelled at the production itself: it’s all perfectly serviceable, but there seems to be a slight lack of focus. The four cast members are all charming enough, but for the most part, each performance is muted. Softly spoken and gently acted does not automatically equal realism.
Even in such a relatively small space, the dialogue is too often muffled or rushed. Of course this is an irritant particularly because it’s such a simple fix, and while it’s not fixed, it gives the concerning impression that the actors don’t really realise the import of what they’re saying. Another indication of this is a curious element of the text that’s not exploited – a significant amount of the conversations, and turns in plot, are dictated by phone. It happens almost enough for it to be a sub-theme of the plot, but not quite enough for you to consider that it might be deliberate. Of course, this may be a weakness in the script (generally, phone conversations don’t really work in fiction unless it’s on screen, and not even then), but an level of inventiveness in the direction would surely have turned this into a – forgive us – talking point, rather than a drag on the narrative.
However. If this all sounds rather too harsh, that’s because it is: this isn’t a bad production, and there’s lots of potential here. The script is realistic and believable, and we get to care about the characters. Timothy Randal is well cast as a charismatic and cocky lady’s man who, as far as all his friends are concerned, is clearly gay, and Dewi Hughes impresses as David, Abi’s husband, despite forcibly reminding one of Dylan Walsh from the series Nip/Tuck. Elena Popovici has a sweet charm, although she’s required to deliver a somewhat unbelievable resolution to her storyline. One of the strongest elements to the production is the entirely believable arguments – which rock from anger to laughs, to affection, to bitterness and back to anger in the matter of a few minutes. Of course, this can be credited to writer Lizzie Conrad, who, as we’ve mentioned, also appears in the lead role. Her performance is unfussy and credible, not demanding sympathy, but eliciting it all the same.