by Nick Payne.

Duke of York’s Theatre St Martin’s Lane WC2N 4BG To 5 January 2013.
Mon-Sat .7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 871 7623/020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 November.

Lovely to watch love making worlds go round.
This is the last, and in a sense least, of three new plays with popular potential to transfer from Sloane Square’s Royal Court to the West End. “Least” because, at 70 minutes, it’s by far the shortest (the West End prices are lower than usual to reflect this), and the two-hander originated at the Court’s small-space Theatre Upstairs.

Yet the performances in Michael Longhurst’s pinpoint-precise production fill the Duke of York’s much greater space. And the larger stage, where Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall’s lovers are surrounded in Tom Scutt’s design by balloons, hanging in the air or dropping periodically to the ground, suggesting both molecular ad planetary space, is apt for a drama where less suggests more and little implies large.

In a way it’s made up of false starts, conversational corners which, dangerous or not, might be the ones turned. Or, which might all be turned in different, parallel spaces. Or which might be imagined in moments when the mind wanders, wonders, conceives ‘what if…?’

As the brief episodes find a way through the maze of dead-end tracks to paths that open new possibilities, matters of life – love, joy, exploration of a relationship – and death – illness, treatment, anxieties – sweep aside quotidian considerations, while light shifts swiftly to dark, and joy is no less real when it is only being recalled.

It could have stayed the demonstration of an idea, but the human potential of Nick Payne’s play is given warmth and energy by Hawkins and Spall. Her scientist Marianne and his practical beekeeper Roland are opposites – light and air, stolidity and earth – that attract. So, when the circumstances are right, then – as with an experiment or in breeding bees – life develops.

Marianne and Roland are more than a two-handed infinite number of monkeys thanks to the depth both actors bring to each dramatic module; Hawkins through liveliness and later anxiety, Spall in Roland’s attempts to keep up with her early energy and later emotional stress.

Amid the dark surrounds, Lee Curran’s vivid lighting, David McSeveney’s soundscape and Simon Slater’s score match the actors’ energy with atmospheric theatrical force.

Marianne: Sally Hawkins.
Roland: Rafe Spall.

Director: Michael Longhurst.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Lee Curran.
Sound: David McSeveney.
Composer: Simon Slater.
Movement: Lucy Cullingford.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Sam Caird.

2012-11-25 13:35:00

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