by Clare Bayley.
Hampstead Theatre (Downstairs) Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 10 November.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3.15pm.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
then Sherman Cymru (Theatre 2) Senghennydd Road CF24 4YE 13-17 November.
TICKETS: 029 2064 6900.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 October.
Hot topics don’t come to the boil.
Into two cities goes Pentabus Theatre with a story of the country. In two senses. The setting is rural, where security’s informal enough for Ray to photograph planes landing on his small local airfield. But it’s also about how Britain involves itself with abduction of terrorist suspects who end up in countries where torture is rife, and at Guantanamo Bay.
But the way extraordinary rendition is rendered in Clare Bayley’s play is very ordinary. That often-used figure the lone investigative journalist, Jane, comes a-snooping. She’s had a past relationship with Ray, which at moments seems set to rekindle.
But only when he comes within the orbit of her excitement at getting her story. And Jane’s relationship with his daughter Ana is close to frigid, as the young media student, with her zest for new media, slogs through an argument with the older journalist, contrasting in a rather over-studied way the values of print and online news. It could have been a fascinating debate, but it comes ladled out in an undigested dollop only to be dropped.
And there’s something curiously passionless about the playing throughout. Emotional links are talked about, there’s a bit of kissing by numbers, but the two main characters never convincingly engage.
It could be the writing doesn’t help, nor Elizabeth Freestone’s tentative production. There are moments, as people prowl around the airstrip when some visceral mystery seems about to stir, but things are soon back into flat-footed dialogue and plodding scenes. Mina, wife of a man who disappeared, and whose whereabouts come to light, is occasionally trundled on in desultory fashion, but remains under-dramatised and without any active role.
A pity, for it’s the potential immediacy of the setting in a production from Shropshire-based Pentabus that is its most intriguing feature, as part of a ‘Radical Rural’ programme which gives a distinctive regional aspect to national concerns. Admirably, this ensures reflecting the region doesn’t become too cosy, but in rightly asserting its perspective should be heard in two capital cities the company needs to have material and a production that speak with a less muffled voice.
Jane: Sarah Malin.
Ray: Jacob Krichefski.
Ana: Dominique Bull.
Mina: Manjeet Mann.
Director: Elizabeth Freestone.
Designer: Naomi Dawson.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.