by Rebecca Gilman.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 28 August 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 August.
Qualified success of small-town Midwest sex-and-cops adventure.
American playwright Rebecca Gilman has an impressive list of productions in London, England (she’s from Birmingham, Alabama) for her plays, which look at social issues through characters’ dilemmas, and incorporate a deal of plot tension.
Blue Surge has a quick-action start, dislocating viewers through a couple of contrasting encounters in a massage parlour. But what develops comes close to playwriting-school ideas. There’s the contrast between two cops’ progress, which suddenly shift trajectories of success and decline. And the policeman falling in love with a heart-of-gold whore, who doesn’t give up the trade.
Not that Gilman uses anything like a tyro, and maybe she’s deliberately spinning expectations new ways. But finally the story never quite achieves full independence from its apparent scheme.
Yet it rarely lacks narrative interest, and Ché Walker’s production helps, though the central table on this tiny stage constricts the action. Individual moments stand out: let anyone opposing the British NHS consider detective Curt, still paying hospital bills for a mother who died of cancer.
And the small-town Midwest location matters: it’s here the Christian fundamentalists can force police action against a dodgy massage-parlour, while Curt’s partner Beth cuts him to size by saying he can’t make Lieutenant even in such an insignificant place.
Despite Samantha Coughlan’s good work, Beth is mainly a reference point for Curt’s relationship with the most interesting character, Sandy. Happy helping him recognise leaf-types as part of his dream of becoming a nature-warden, she’s capable of walking barefoot to Curt’s for help, as she is of leaving when a surprised Beth arrives.
This composure, and a mind that assesses circumstances rationally, is lacked by her co-sex-worker Heather and impulsive Doug, the cop who busts then befriends her. Even Curt loves too well rather than wisely. Everyone loses their temper; but Cathy only does so, understandably, when her ex-masseuse partner and friends move in and disrupt her home.
Sandy’s the play’s centre and strength, and Clare Latham catches the elusive quality of her practicality. If the whole play were at the level of invention in her character, it would be a very fine piece.
Curt: James Hillier.
Sandy: Clare Latham.
Doug: Alexander Gulney.
Heather: Kelly Burke.
Beth: Samantha Coughlan.
Director: Ché Walker.
Designer: Georgia Lowe.
Lighting: Neill Brinkworth.
Sound: Edward Lewis.
Costume: Rachel Szmukler.
Assistant director: Ola Ince.