by Stephen Sewell.

Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 8 March 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm & 20, 27 Feb 2.30pm (+ Post-show Discussion).
Audio-described 25 Feb, 1 March 3pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 February.

The high life brought low and obsession exposed in well-crafted drama.
Both in his title and in a programme note, Australian playwright Stephen Sewell looks to an apocalyptic theme for his 2006 play. Two Americans living in an Australia city, he a serious (not to say portentous) music critic, she a radio producer, find the text of their lives, the hopes, ambitions, arguments, unexpectedly overwhelmed by the context the day the electricity stops.

No heat, no computer; no air-conditioning, no lifts. There’s something of a latter-day Twilight Zone to the situation. And something very current as winds and water knock-out British power-lines.

The situation goes as suddenly as it had come, but exposes fears about a world unfamiliar and unresponsive, and about the way people relate when normal rules are removed.

It certainly exposes one self-absorbed character, music critic Franklin. He lives a peninsula of a life, connected by the narrowest isthmus with the world around. It’s Beth who leaves the apartment for an office; Franklin expects someone else to fund his proposed arts magazine – a no-hope project in the internet age, where he can propound his sterile insistence art is divorced from the rest of life.

David Antrobus’s Orange Tree production starts with a naked flame, the primitive source of heat from which technology’s cut people off. Joseph Kloska and Emma Pallant steer the dialogue through setting-up the situation and developing paranoia about the world ending with neither bang nor whimper, but zero-voltage silence.

Then their Australian neighbours arrive, infusing new energy into events. For all his smiles Bill takes command, lighting-up cigarettes, directing the talk. At first Cate Debenham-Taylor’s Pearl is simply the glamorous trophy-wife, but her teeth are eventually, more then less politely, bared.

It’s a finely-judged performance from an Orange Tree regular. And John Bowler provides an excellently-judged mixture of ingratiation and menace as he insinuates and manipulates the situation, up to a final, fatal turn.

Finally, Sewell picks-up several elements from the conversation to give the reality of matters which have been seen largely from one character’s viewpoint. It’s a dramatically involving revelation although it focuses the play on something other than normal life just stopping.

Franklin: Joseph Kloska.
Beth: Emma Pallant.
Bill: John Bowler.
Pearl: Cate Debenham-Taylor.

Director: David Antrobus.
Designer: Sam Sowson.
Lighting: John Harris.
Sound: Tim Bifield.
Trainee director: Lewis Gray.
Assistant designer: Katy Mills.

2014-02-16 10:41:27

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