by E V Crowe.
Unicorn Theatre (Weston auditorium) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ In rep to 6 March 2013.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 Feb.
Strongest when it’s speaking least.
Somewhere behind this play, says writer E V Crowe’s programme note, is the question why Cordelia decided to tell her father King Lear the truth about her feelings. Not that there’s anything Kingly or Learish about the play, or its modern setting – except perhaps for the fortress-like bedroom where 14-year old Grace is marooned high above the main-stage – a setting this piece for 13-16s shares with its repertoire companion 1001 Nights.
And that her dad David is a single parent, trying hard from the margins of the action and the stage to come to terms with his teenage daughter. There’s also Grace’s sister Coco and Neighbourhood Watch member Steve who, bouncily and shyly respectively, sometimes enter events.
What’s recalled are simpler, popular sources; the chant from which the title’s taken, and the rhyme about tangled webs and practising to deceive. For external circumstances give a sinister possibility to how Grace spent the night when she didn’t come home.
A lot of the arguments between Danusia Samal’s strongly-played central character and those around are brisk, economic and flurry past with a sense of a teenager’s response to life’s usual pressures, though secrets are unusually compacted in Grace’s life.
Parent-child arguments have been rehearsed often enough, and are efficiently here. More notable, and given due prominence in Blanche McIntyre’s production, are the sections without words – or, rather, speech. These can be full of sound and fury; Grace has a liking for violent computer games (something adding an element of suspicion in view of events outside) and loud music; but mainly, in silent concentration, with messaging.
Her texted conversations with Javaad show, through terse indirection, the emotional intensity of her age, between child and adult in feelings and actions. Their rapid ‘talk’, accompanied only by electronic pings, is projected in silence on screens. There’s no need to say anything. The device was notably used for the chat-room sequences in Patrick Marber’s Closer, but here the impact’s more intense, as Grace sits intently focused on her handheld.
Possibly the first time a dramatic crisis has been so handled, it’s the heart of this drama.
Grace: Danusia Samal.
David: Thomas Padden.
Coco: Rita Arya.
Steve: Carl Patrick.
Director: Blanche McIntyre.
Designer: James Perkins.
Lighting: Gary Bowman.
Sound: George Dennis.
Assistant director: Natasha Jenkins.