by Ted Whitehead.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 18 July 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk (no booking fee by ’phone or online).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 June.
Portrait of a deadly marriage intriguingly viewed a generation or two on.
From 1962 to 1971, across three acts, Norma and Frank Elliot destroy each other through their marriage in a battle that heats-up from cold unease and whiplash wit as he approaches the age of thirty, to physical fury several years later, and a cold kind of truce once they’ve separated but he still wants a full divorce.
At first it’s his birthday presents from the children he stamps on; later husband and wife go full pelt for each other. And given a stage using the whole Finborough floor, with a row of audience round the sides, the windows open to the street, it’ll be no wonder if a spectator shares some sort of wound by the end of the run.
The production is complemented by the Finborough’s world premiere of Laura Jacqmin’s A Third, with its modern open relationship under pressure. Whitehead’s drama recalls how different matters were in the so-called progressive sixties, when staying together, if only for the children, was the default position for middle-class people, as these are. And northerners, though the performances in Purni Morell’s London revival ignore the Liverpool setting.
Nor does the revival go for period detail with its CDs and 21st-century sound-system. Yet the modern elements fit an acting style that’s modern, metropolitan and 21st-century smooth. It’s the world on which the windows look-out if not the old industrial, closer-knit one from which the characters emerged. Irony has become the means of expressing anger – or a cooler, controlled form of irony.
August Strindberg, particularly The Dance of Death, is the model for this view of marriage. Strindberg sets-out three steps ahead, but as time passes, Whitehead catches up, fury destroying the room Mrs Elliot was decorating at the opening. Her moments of quiet withdrawal look forward to the last act of Alan Ayckbourn’s Just Between Ourselves.
What’s important here is that the Finborough, Morell and actors Christian Roe and Tracy Ifeachor provide a reminder of Whitehead’s impassioned denunciation of a marriage, with concentrated venom that rings true in a relationship gone wrong, where both suffer intensely as they pull apart against institutional restraints.
Mr Elliot: Christian Roe.
Mrs Elliot: Tracy Ifeachor.
Director: Purni Morell.
Designer: Verity Quinn.
Lighting: Phil Bentley.
Fight director: Tim Klotz.
Assistant director: Anastasia Osei-Kuffour.