by Shelagh Stephenson.
Theatre by the Lake Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 7 November 2015.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 August.
New life for play in revival especially strong at the centre.
Five years ago in Hampstead, Shelagh Stephenson’s play seemed a disappointment from a fine playwright (despite its largely approving reviews). In Keswick, it appears more humane.
The central situation is familiar from fact-based stories including Martin Guerre and Six Degrees of Separation. Lia has always lived confident in her liberal, enlightened values. She desperately wants to find what happened to her 20-year old son Adam, missing abroad. Her desperation brings her into contact with various shady characters, including the ‘sensitive’ Joyce and a career-building TV producer, till her own enlightened views grow overcast.
Her family try to help, yet her father politician Gordon, a sternly authoritative Peter Macqueen, can lay down laws but not reach the core of his daughter’s emotional experience. Her husband, Patrick Bridgeman’s Nick, when he tries to see-off the ‘sensitive’ Joyce, only reflects, for Lia, that he’s not her son’s father.
Nick’s first-act impatience with Joyce is nothing compared with his growing fury after the interval with the Adam who arrives as the first act ends. In Zoë Waterman’s production it’s soon apparent whether the new arrival is who he claims to be, or the stranger he seems to Lia and Nick.
Yet Lia evidently wants him to be Adam, and Richard Keightley steers a vivid course between living-up to this, lying his way out of trouble and coming out with brutal attacks on the people with whom he’s come to live. The truth is unsurprising when it’s finally prised out of him. But that’s not what matters.
Intriguing as the self-proclaimed Adam’s psychology is, it mainly refracts Lia’s mind and emotions. And amid five skilfully realised performances, she is the only character who does not seem well-played.
For she doesn’t seem played at all. Someone claiming to be Cate Hamer is credited with the role, but every word, look, reaction, every tensing of the body, tear-weary expression of the eye, moment of anger towards Nick, of alternate longing or fury towards Adam, every self-tormenting moment carries in it months of anxious uncertainty, years of lived experience. Intensely realised, it reaches-out to grab the audience tight.
Nick: Patrick Bridgman.
Lia: Cate Hamer.
Adam: Richard Keightley.
Joyce: Kate Layden.
Gordon: Peter Macqueen.
Joanna: Charlotte Mulliner.
Director: Zoë Waterman.
Designer/Costume: Elizabeth Wright.
Lighting: Jo Dawson.
Sound: Maura Guthrie.
Fight director: Peter Macqueen.