Camden Fringe 2012
Upstairs at The Camden Eye there’s a
The Planktonic Players are making their London Fringe debut and Michael Pratt his directing debut with Savage in Limbo, American playwright John Patrick Shanley’s 1984 tragicomedy. Five characters play host to the 80s, each living out their own mid-life existential crisis in a nameless bar. The backdrop is well-realised: memorabilia from the period, neon lighting lining the walls, and a sign signifying the Brooklyn Brewery.
A site-specific production with just one scene, this is very much performance-based, and the performances don’t disappoint. Grace Kennedy excels as the feisty and dissatisfied Denise Savage, the eponymous thirty-two year old virgin. Kennedy gives her strength and savvy, creating the impression she’s a tough one to crack, before the meltdown and the final realisation.
Gabriella Curtis is secure as the independently-minded Linda Rotunda who’s now at a crossroads. Her lover/enemy Tony Aronica is a constant thorn in her side, admitting he wants to start sleeping with “ugly girls” having just had the revelatory experience of meeting a girl with a brain. Robert Bellissimo as Tony fits neatly into the Italian-American stud stereotype. A self-obsessed object to be swooned over but with serious anger management issues, Bellissimo marks the character’s apparent propensity for histrionics with sudden unconvincing bursts of shouting and hysteria. This technique is not witty nor does it pique interest, it’s just absurd and rather irritating.
Melissa Palleschi gives a stand-out performance as flighty April White. Pure in name but not in nature, April was expected to become a nun and go to , but instead spends her time on an emotional knife-edge, jittering, and knocking back Brandy Alexanders. Oliver Hewett as bartender Murk takes the comedy prize with his blend of dry wit and sarcasm – and his brief stint as Santa Clause. A customer code of conduct is in operation, with a blackboard for a rulebook which stipulates: ‘the bartender is always right/no sleeping, only drinking’. It seems a shame more could not be made of April and Murk, if only to level out the comedy with the tragedy.
But this is a compelling, provocative piece of theatre, and the source material lends an above-average script. The breadth of intensity Kennedy brings in her closing moments is inspired, as is Palleschi’s entire performance. This is a strong debut by The Planktonic Players, and they should be ones to look out for at future fringe festivals.