by Michael Wynne.
Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 16 June 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm no performance 4 June Mat Sat & 7, 13 June 2.30pm.
Audio-described 15 June, 16 June 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 May.
Pleasant comedy of holidaying souls in torment.
If titles could be recycled, Michael Wynne might reuse one from his early work, The People Are Friendly. For indeed they are seem so this superior camping holiday. Canvas isn’t the first play to examine social contrasts in such a scene. There’s John Godber’s Pitch Perfect, though Wynne’s new play is superior socially, in terms of its site, and its writing.
The hapless Bronwyn only has three superior pitches occupied on the farm where Wynne’s play is set. As the interior of Jonathan Fensom’s set slides ingeniously in and out, allowing shifts between interior and open ground, the contrasts between the three holidaying couples, and the potential for the women to clash and male desire to be foiled, mixes with interior tensions within each set of partners, until everyone’s revealed to be living something of a lie.
Amid the comedy – teacher Bridget’s lack of self-awareness, expressed with grating cheer by Sarah Hadland, Lisa Palfrey giving Bronwyn a near-hysterical energy, or Hattie Ladbury’s accomplished Amanda, who brings a near-entire supply of domestic appliances, complete with generator, to make her berth a true home from home – darker tones come out first among the men.
Oliver Milburn is smoothly arrogant as someone making a play for another woman, being expertly stymied. He’s contrasted by Elliot Levey’s Rory, naively keen to reclaim his relationship, apparently comings close before being defeated. While Alan merely wants to keep his economic situation secret. He doesn’t have much success either.
Financial troubles underlie many of the problems, in line with the times, though monetary tensions also reveal emotional crevices, something expertly shown in the quiet grimness of Lucy Montgomery and Dean Lennox Kelly’s characters. The final test of each character is how they stand after full exposure.
Angus Jackson’s production can’t disguise that Wynne spends most of the play, up to the interval, in leisurely enjoyment of the humorous potential in his characters and the ways they don’t fit together on the farm. Writer and director both show their best paces in the final section, where matters come to several heads and truths are forcibly and universally acknowledged.
Justine: Lucy Montgomery.
Alan: Dean Lennox Kelly.
Bridget: Sarah Hadland.
Rory: Elliot Levey.
Bronwyn: Lisa Palfrey.
Alistair: Oliver Milburn.
Amanda: Hattie Ladbury.
Mia: Lily Barkes/Lyla May Garner-Gibbons.
Thomas: Alexander McDonald-Damper/Tom Oldham.
Director: Angus Jackson.
Designer: Jonathan Fensom.
Lighting: Mark Howland.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Composer: Grant Olding.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Anthony Lau.