by Nick Grosso.

Royal Court (Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 19 June 2010.
Mon-Say 7.45pm Mat Sat 4pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 May.

Brilliant dialogue without much of a play.
Two friends come round Katie’s place to watch ‘The X-Factor’. Katie shares the rather smart-looking pad with Frank, though he spends a large slice of the time not there. He’s forced out by Rosanna, who insists he fetch new supplies of Coke to drink. Maybe he’s glad to go away from her non-stop malicious, insinuating mouth.

Because, in a play about people addicted to something, yet not quite in rehab, Rosanna’s thing is non-stop suggestion and provocation. With her friend Deanna it’s non-stop drinking. Though this doesn’t come to light till after Rosanna’s quietened down. They take their turn, which may be how it is with friends. Or maybe it’s so playwright Nick Grosso can concentrate on one at once. Addiction’s like that, after all.

When Frank returns it’s not after the lapse into alcoholism Rosanne had been pushing, but a heavy session with the neighbours’ kids’ video-games, another form of compulsion. Finally, fatality sweeps into Frank and Katie’s life with a friend’s death. Despite this, there’s a final quiet swing towards optimism, with a switch from Grosso’s characteristic terse dialogue to a couple of smoother, sustained speeches.

And Frank clearing away the last drops of rum then cleaning the sink. It’s a step, if not a journey of a thousand miles. But he and Katie take side-roles in their own home. It’s the visitors, played with incessant invention by Lesley Sharp and blithe denial protecting itself with spurts of anger by Lisa Palfrey, who are the main act – though James Lance and Indira Varma are no less accomplished in allowing them the space.

But it all seems contrived, including director Deborah Bruce’s opening sequence, where the four rock around the room in a way unrelated to what happens afterwards. And, while the programme that brings them together may suggest an addiction to celebrity, they break-off from watching it for long patches, and show no response when they are looking.

From dialogue, to performances, to Ben Stones’ coolly fashionable setting, this has all the ingredients of a good show. Apart from the X-factor that brings a play to life.

Rosanna: Lesley Sharp.
Frank: James Lance.
Deanne: Lisa Palfrey.
Katie: Indira Varma.

Director: Deborah Bruce.
Designer: Ben Stones.
Lighting: Matt Drury.
Sound: Davis McSeveney.
Dialect coach: Jan Haydn Rowles.

2010-05-31 16:43:45

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