DEAD HEAVY FANTASTIC
by Robert Farquhar.
Everyman Theatre Hope Street L1 9BH To 2 April 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0151 709 4776.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 March.
Not, alas, very fantastic.
Imagine a playwright with some track-record being given the opportunity to write for a repertory theatre. An idea comes to mind, with a strong local setting. Off we go.
The trouble is, after a promising opening spurt setting-up the situation, greased with surprise and lively wit, the idea doesn’t run smoothly. In fact it ends up barely toddling. It crawls, painfully, lines almost having to be forced from the keyboard to make a scene exist.
I’ve no way of knowing if it was like that for Robert Farquhar with this full-length play. But it seems possible, watching it. The story’s a version of one that seems popular after Martin Scorsese’s 1985 film After Hours, where a chance encounter leads a smart New York executive into a night world of increasing alarm.
For Farquhar’s decent, reticent common man Frank, the initial encounter’s at least deliberate as, toddling towards 40, he arranges a blind date with Cindy, a decade younger. He wants a gentle introduction but she grabs him for almost immediate sex, with a ravening appetite that’s joined with frustration when the existing man in her life slips into the room.
Vince is a different type from Frank, and follows Cindy close enough to pursue her to a hotel bedroom. He has violent outbreaks, but soon regrets them and as a friend clings insistently – a lot of the action depends on Vince not listening to other people.
Con O’Neill gives his best tough but well-intentioned manner, while Alan Stocks keeps Frank just this side of invisibility as he’s borne along by the flow of others’ actions till the inevitable final serious speech. Samantha Robinson provides unflagging energy as Cindy, while Michelle Butterly provides more considered reflection as Frank’s salvation Maureen. But they’re flowing effortfully uphill as the action’s tricked out with a hen-party trio whooping it through the night, in Simon Daw’s lively costumes.
Daw also provides scenic energy for Matt Wilde’s production in video inserts of cityscapes and life in, or whizzing through, city streets. But it’s razzamatazz to flog a horse that increasingly doesn’t have much life in it.
Maureen: Michelle Butterly.
Stevie/Preacher/Young Man at Karaoke: David Carlyle.
Julie/Dee/Goldfish Woman/Dawn: Helen Carter.
Graeme/Elvis/Hospital Security Guard: Stephen Fletcher.
Vince: Con O’Neill.
Cindy: Samantha Robinson.
Kelly/Vicki/Nurse: Jess Schofield.
Frank: Alan Stocks.
Director: Matt Wilde.
Designer/Video/Costume: Simon Daw.
Lighting: Paul Anderson.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Choreographer: Aline David.
Assistant director: John Ward.