COLDER THAN HERE
by Laura Wade.
Theatre By The Lake (Studio) Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 9 November 2012.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 July.
Perceptive play in often piercing revival.
Why is the countryside bookended by furniture? And why do plants drape around the furniture? Thomasin Marshall’s set makes its point here: life loses its usual divisions when death approaches, slowly but with certainty.
Months ahead, finding a location for the scattering of ashes is almost like looking over a place to live. No-one can joke more than the person for whom death isn’t yet a felt presence. Maggie Tagney captures the mood, as she will the foreshortening of the future to limited mobility and life in a dressing-gown.
Serious, but not solemn, Laura Wade’s play shows a strong feel for family relationships faced with a life hit by cancer. It’s far from morbid, because Myra especially catches the dignity of someone refusing to surrender to finality. And Keswick revives the play in a studio production that’s vivid and precise in the dynamics of female family relationships.
If anything director Abigail Anderson is even more acute with the relationship between Myra’s adult daughters, both close to the playwright’s age. First to be seen is Augustina Seymour’s Jenna, attractively energetic and emotionally volatile, not least in her relationship with a packet of cigarettes. When older sister Harriet arrives, Seymour’s nervy defensiveness is contrasted by Joannah Tincey’s steady rationality. One’s impulsive and finds excuses; the other works things out reflectively.
All this emerges without any apparent effort; it’s impossible to believe these two haven’t shaped their lives by the presence of their opposite sibling. Along with Tagney, they are seemingly effortless pictures of truth as the situation moves forward.
Things are less successful with the sole male, Myra’s husband. The performance is never inappropriate, as Philip Rham shows Alec’s refusal to respond emotionally. Early on he sits alone, shielding himself with a newspaper. Later, as Myra tries to wrap herself in his embrace, he’s entirely passive, using his free hand to turn the page of his book.
His fear of fear starts at his first entrance, when he polishes his specs rather than looking at his family. But it remains consciously acted compared with the magnificent integration of actor and character elsewhere.
Alec: Philip Rham.
Jenna: Augustina Seymour.
Myra: Maggie Tagney.
Harriet: Joannah Tincey.
Director: Abigail Anderson.
Designer/Costume: Thomasin Marshall.
Lighting: Jo Dawson.
Sound: Sanne Noppen.