by Ariel Dorfman.

Salisbury OPlayhouse (Salberg Studio) Salthouse Lane SP2 7RA To 23 October 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm mat Sat & 21 Oct 2.45pm.
Setting the Scene, 6 October, 6.30pm.
Post Show Discussion, 19 October.
Theatre Day 21 October, 11.30am.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.

TICKETS: 01722 320333.
Review Mark Courtice 5 October.

Important play brings out skilful acting.

Once again at the Salberg Studio there’s a play that brings us good acting close up, and this time the themes are universal and far reaching. Once again the actors are allowed to get on with the job with skilful and sympathetic direction, this time from Patricia Benecke.

The "Knight of the Road" who offers lawyer Gerardo a lift home from a breakdown may hide a dreadful secret; Gerardo’s emotionally damaged wife has been tortured by the former regime. She particularly remembers a doctor with a distinctive voice from amongst her torturers, a man who played Schubert’s Death and The Maiden quartet as he went about his horrible work. As Roberto and Paulina meet, Gerardo’s dilemmas are those that have to be faced in dealing with truth, vengeance and reconciliation after the terrible cruelties of dictatorship and civil strife.

As well as being about important ideas that matter whether you are dealing with Chile or Northern Ireland, this play uses the structures and tensions of the thriller to make them dramatic. Is the softly spoken Roberto really a torturer; will Paulina take her revenge?

As Roberto, Sean Campion deftly plays psychological games, not just with the other characters, but also with the audience’s expectations. Given he’s tied to chair most of the time this requires skill. He’s matched by David Michaels who has a really good shot at making nice guy Gerardo more than just a foil. Good energy, focussed playing and an explosive moment when the worm turns mean he succeeds.

Ruth Gemmell’s Paulina is more mannered. Gemmell plays her as repressed, physically turning in on herself with the pain of remembering, her vocal mannerisms internalising stress, sometimes difficult to hear, but threatening to explode at any time.

Playhouse Artistic Director Philip Wilson designs the beach house interior set. With doors that are implied rather than actual, this seems a rather open space for a high-pressure play. There is effective lighting by Dave Marsh, including a bravura sequence in darkness where you can see everything. Good sound makes a world outside believable and Schubert’s music insidiously insistent.

Paulina: Ruth Gemmell.
Gerardo: David Michaels.
Roberto: Sean Campion.

Director: Patricia Benecke.
Designer: Philip Wilson.
Lighting: Dave Marsh.
Sound: Alex Twiselton.

2010-10-10 12:15:06

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