by Joe Penhall.
Theatre By The Lake (Studio) Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 7 November 2011.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 August.
Grippingly-revived exposé of the glib and self-serving.
Sometimes, studio theatres can be good for plays. Joe Penhall’s 2004 three-hander (premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre) about the hotel-room entrapment of a TV comedian has had a rough ride in recent revivals at Newcastle-under-Lyme and Kingston-on-Thames. But up close and personal (part of an up-close-and-personal ‘bedroom suite’ of a studio season) it grips the attention, and for most of the time holds conviction.
Confident he’s being admired by the man and woman who offer him a lucrative private banking account topped-off with a highly-paid speaking date, Matthew Vaughan’s shiny-suited Barry soaks up the flattery, then, alone with Liz (a serpentine Heather Saunders, seductive by implication of positioning, smiles, sympathetically admiring glances, and careful disposition of limbs) offers her Class-A drugs.
But this pair are no more genuine than Barry’s cheery-chappie persona. When he finds out who they are and the publicity they threaten he turns nasty, focusing insults and physical threats on a Liz now seeming horrified and repulsed.
While Saunders moves from apparent willowy willingness to seeming moral shock, Matt Addis’s Greg re-energises his attack with supercharged indignation, adrenalin upping his smooth-suited, glistening-haired certainty. Part of a pair who have it made because they fake sincerity perfectly, he remains compelling when things fall apart.
Stefan Escreet’s production shows these people deserve each other. It’s so well done, everything seeming spontaneous, every character straight from the street, pub or wine-bar, it would be easy to forget it had been directed. Which, in such a play, is a sign of how well it has been directed.
To the bitter end, where Greg, happy to build a career on ruining someone else’s ‘in the public interest’, curls-up in panic when threatened himself, while Matthew Vaughan’s Barry (an expertly-judged balanced between over-confidence and anger) shows the viciousness that can underlie comic energy.
Finally, a career is destroyed, but as Barry and Liz finally meet, dressed-down, her serpentine weavings of apparent sympathy – seduction by vocal sympathy and cajoling – continue to push her self-advancing agenda, while any sympathy Barry’s moral anger over privacy may have built, collapses in an expertly-placed final line.
Greg: Matt Addis.
Liz: Heather Saunders.
Barry: Matthew Vaughan.
Director: Stefan Escreet.
Designer: Elizabeth Wright.
Lighting: Jo Dawson.
Sound: Maura Guthrie.
Fight director: Peter Macqueen.