FOR ONCE To 14 April.

London.

FOR ONCE
by Tim Price.

Hampstead Theatre (Downstairs/ Michael Frayn Space) Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 30 July 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 July 2011.

Revived for tour 23 February-14 April 2012.

Monologues interrupted by dialogue perfectly expresses a family’s experience.
This month Pentabus Theatre’s production opens in Hampstead; next spring it tours from Cardiff, no doubt including their West Midlands homeland (Ludlow is their base). So Tim Price’s story of urbane middle-class folk in a country-town setting should reach appropriate audiences. Pentabus have already visited the complexities within supposedly idyllic rural England in Brian Viner’s Tales from the Country, which plonked North London sophisticates amid fields and country-folk.

Whereas Viner’s piece showed episodes in the life of Crouch End transplantees, Price takes a nuclear approach. Wife, husband, grown-up son live in the small town that’s “a village with attitude”. Lovely to look at – Anthony Lamble’s set creates conventional elegance in a rear wall and archway – but where everyone knows what’s going on. And that produces both fusion and fission when the family’s lives are derailed by a car crash in which young Sid loses an eye, and his friends are killed.

Price’s action explodes outwards from the aftershock of the accident. Time flits about as the three tell their own stories, moments of interaction dissolving into the characters’ separate accounts. Until the end, where Orla O’Loughlin’s production brings mother and son close together, father standing more tentatively by holding a light up for them. Till then, being together has been like (as Gordon describes) three people in the same room, tuned in to individual different worlds of radio, iPod and laptop.

There are three immaculate performances, Geraldine Alexander expressing a variety of emotional inflections with graceful economy; for a character with April’s strength the frequent ironing must be a way of escape from her surroundings. Patrick Driver has the calmly assured manner of the mature educated male, intelligent and sensitive enough to be self-conscious about his sometimes wayward behaviour.

And Jonathan Smith’s 17-year old Sid has his parents’ composed exterior, adapting to his damaged eye, with added generational annoyance: picturesque villages are no place for energetic youth. Next stop, an accident, turning dream to nightmare.

O’Loughlin marshals these fine actors in an economical, well-paced production that gives space to the human understanding, wit and careful structuring of Price’s script.

April: Geraldine Alexander.
Gordon: Patrick Driver.
Sid: Jonathan Smith.

Director: Orla O’Loughlin.
Designer: Anthony Lamble.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Assistant director: Ben Webb.

2011-07-12 21:04:57

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