Edinburgh Fringe 2010
A marriage is fast breaking up three men, a neglected wife and a mother-in-law who fails surreal in parts and the denouement is surprising.
The Berkoff fan club is apparently divided in it’s appreciation of this piece: your reviewer found it entertaining although this production did not set the world on fire. The play traces a marriage breakup and realinment of affections. Rebecca Wright gave a clear, powerful and moving description of the neglected wife, Donna. We knew exactly what sort of a pig Frank, the husband, would be before he appeared home from the office but when we actually encountered the insensitive, demanding business man against whom Donna was justified in making complaint, Chris Wyatt presented a rather weak and whining chap she could have eaten for breakfast.
Granted, middle age is a challenge for any student-aged actor to carry off convincingly but I’m afraid Chris Wyatt did not rise to the challenge. The actor didn’t even seem to have found a clear angle on the character at all -although Berkoff had given him the exciting opportunity of hiding one persona under another in a way that could have been and should have been both truthful and absurd at the same time. The end of the play, instead ending on the high of a wild and catch-us-without-expecting-it twist, in fact finished on something of a forced titter. Frank finds himself in bed twice and on neither occasion did he come up to his bedfellow’s expectations or ours.
Frank’s embarrassed and hapless business partner, Hal, was played by Nick Fullerton who was also unable to overcome the difficulties of an ICL student grappling with middle age. Nick Fullerton had however a clear grasp of the character, had thought in detail and imaginatively about it and knew what he wanted to do with it and when he has discovered that on stage less is more, and that emotions can be best transmitted to an audience by inner tension combined with external relaxation, that stillness is much stronger than constant and frenetic fidgeting (which is frankly exhausting to watch), he may well prove to be a useful actor indeed. . However, in the briefest of cameos as a waiter and as a man who has lost his cat, he showed wit, timing and imagination, which suggested that, with professional training, he might well have what it takes to enter the profession if he wanted to.
Mary Benn as the Mother-in-Law looked and sounded the part but spoiled the effectiveness of her work (as did Nick Pearse as George, ‘the other man’) by low energy levels and slow picking up of cues. By contrast the stage management team were swift and made light of the scene changes -— it’s so easy for a production to fall flat on its face because of slow scene changes. The production back-up is sometimes ignored, but what happens in dark corners and in sound and lighting boxes can make or mar the flashy bit on stage. This said, I didn’t notice much imagination in the design or direction even granted the limitations of budget.
The star of the show, and I use the word advisedly, was Rebecca Wright. Her performance hints at a young actress of considerable power, intelligence and focus: it was a shame she had no one on stage of equal experience to spar with. Bed scenes! Now these really are embarrassing if the actors don’t look as if they could and really would to do the business — even if the writer has decreed that they don’t want to. Donna’s experience in bed was enough to turn a girl frigid and Boys, if you’re playing gays in love you really must find each other irresistible. A tentatative hand on the knee is really not enough. The gay moment really looked as if the actors playing Frank and Hal were trying to prove to friends in the front row ‘they were only acting really and that of course they’d never even entertained the thought of going to kiss me goodnight?” asks Hal
“Not in a million years!” Says your reviewer. This doesn’t sound like a particularly good review why then have I given it 3 stars? Quite simply because , not knowing the play itself, I found it a very bright little piece of writing that was 1 star. The second star was Nick Fullerton’s ‘Where’s my fucking cat?” which seriously tickled my fancy and his Italian waiter that I wished we’d seen more of. The third star of the accolade was for Rebecca Wright whose performance should place her on any Director’s audition list and for which it is worth going to see the production.