by Adam Barnard.
Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 27 June 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Tue & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 16 Jun 7.30pm, 20 Jun 2.30pm.
Post-show Talk 18 Jun.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 June.
Around life’s dilemmas in eighty minutes.
The script for Adam Barnard’s new play, included in the Orange Tree programme, could have come as a loose-leaf file. While the first scene seen on stage (one of the few with its title announced) is the natural opening, the many brief, varied episodes which follow could come in virtually any order. Such randomness used to be highly experimental, until Alan Ayckbourn gave it a mainstream normality.
Barnard helps it regain experimental status, as his scenes are also abstract, played here by six actors in neutral clothing not even searching for characters (it could be any number, though I suspect two is an irreducible minimum). Starkly and simply, they illustrate life-changing, or life-challenging situations. Which is one reason the opening ‘Doctor’ sets matters going well. It’s also more specific than most, with its dilemma for the parent of a 3-year old with a terminal condition.
From there it could be played in any order. Pushed to the very edge of danger, it would be possible to change the order nightly at random, playing scenes in the order they’re drawn from a hat – or bucket. Meanwhile, the actors cope skilfully with the economical dialogue and lack of continuity between scenes.
Sometimes there’s complete abstraction, other times a specificity the actors seem to find comfortable and the audience welcome; the father receiving bad news moving between gratitude and fury towards the medic delivering it to him, or a reflective ’phone call interrupted by an ineptly friendly mugging.
Which happens on a bridge represented, in a moment of awkward part-realism, by a playground slide. This also offers, more satisfactorily, a reference to childhood throughout, caught too in the red balloons, whose fate might be predicted in this kaleidoscope of life and death, and which form one of the few colour splashes, along with yellow flowers.
The cumulative impact of the piece resembles that of the elliptical plays of an earlier Orange Tree writer, Martin Crimp. Director Rania Jumaily keeps things cool and moving, while several sung inserts from a small community choir provide a contrast, refocusing attention for the next batch of scenes.
Cast: Jon Foster, Tom Gill, Charlotte Josephine, Sarah Malin, Rona Morison, Sophie Steer.
Community Ensemble: Shailla Barok, Hazel Collinson, David Croft, Janet Dare, Becky Flisher, Laura Hepworth, Mira Ihasz, Joyanna Lovelock, Jennifer Matthews, Angie Newman, Phoebe Rodrigues, Imogen Roux, Lois Savill, Samantha Scott, Danieelle Thompson, Graham Williams.
Director: Rania Jumaily.
Designer: James Turner.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Musical Arranger: Candida Caldicot.
Singing supervisor: Sue Appleby.