by Josep Maria Benet I Jornet translated by Sharon G Feldman.
White Bear Theatre 138 Kennington Park Road SE11 4DJ To 31 July 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 5.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7793 9193.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 July.
Desire disrupts the plane of life.
Such a life ought to be idyllic; man and wife find a remote rural retreat early enough to join it for decades to come. Only She has bad dreams. At least, she’s worried that the one road to town, the street she has to drive down, has more than once had a man standing for help by his apparently broken-down car. While her husband’s skill is with inanimate, pliable wood, she decides to confront the mysterious man.
She tries challenging him, but he’s hard to challenge. Unlike wood, he gives no resistance, or only the resistance of unbroken calm and accommodation. Challenging him is like trying to pin-down jelly. He has a purpose beneath the unfailing calm. It’s not what you might think of a man standing by a car waiting for a particular woman to stop. In fact, this plot level is the play’s least convincing aspect.
Though writer Josep Maria Behnet I Jornet comes from Barcelona, his play’s in the French tradition, whereby minimum action provokes maximum discussion. And pretty discursive discussion too. The occasional moment of thriller-like intrigue vanishes like a bubble bursting as soon as it’s taken shape.
The play’s quality lies in the questioning the situation causes in She. The pronoun nomenclature quirkily individualises her. So does Annabel Cleare’s performance. She (and “She”) shows both a challenge to the threat She believes The Man represents, before becoming involved in his world.
Both Stephen Connery-Brown’s mild-featured, calm-voiced Man and Isabelle Gregson as The Woman introduce a more complex existence than She and her Husband have experienced. It’s this sense of lives coming together with widely different experiences and expectations that Julia Stubbs’ production most clearly presents.
There is, apparently, a definable motive behind the Man’s action, but at the story level it’s neither clear nor very convincing. It’s better to take the play for the uncertainties it engenders in She’s mind, the contrast between her easygoing husband and the more complex pair she meets and the undermining of expectations with which a hundred Hollywood films and a thousand TV crime dramas have filled most audience minds.
The Husband: Simon de Deney.
She: Annabel Cleare.
The Man: Stephen Connery-Brown.
The Woman: Isabelle Gregson.
Director: Julia Stubbs.
Designer: Mike Lees.
Lighting: Rei Kurosaki.
Sound: Damian Reynolds.