LIFE FOR BEGINNERS
by Alice Birch, Ben Ellis, Matt Hartley, Lizzie Nunnery, Rex Obano.
Theatre 503 above The Latchmere Pub 503 Battersea Park Road SW11 3BW To 29 September 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Sun 5pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7978 7040.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 September.
Ages of man and woman wittily discussed and played.
New starters and those beginning again travel through their various lives in the intertwined strands of Theatre 503’s latest production. The pair in a void are the absolute beginners – very early starters – who turn out not to be in a void at all. Near the other end of life there’s a Krapp’s Last Tape element as Tony, at 60, opens the letter he wrote his future self when 30. It leads to life beginning again, nervously, at 60 with a bookshop assignation.
Between come young loves, hopes and tensions, all flowing smoothly in a production jointly directed by the two people who have overseen the theatre’s considerable development in the last few years, Tim Roseman (who’s leaving) and Paul Robinson (who’s taking over solo control).
This isn’t the first multi-authored piece, in some form or other, here. It’s part of 503’s commitment to developing new writers, and Life for Beginners shows the dramatic life they’ve been nurturing. There’s wit but never glibness – not even in the bling-infested young woman keen to be mauled on a reality TV show; both writing and Kate Sissons’ wide-eyed naivety give the character a degree of dignity.
Then there’s Katie McGuinness, her character’s energy and anxiety playing against Alex Beckett’s optimism from a position where everything’s the future and all seems possible. Or Caroline Faber’s scientific analysis breaking into rage, and Edward Hancock’s attempt to show a street cool to cover his fear of nerdishness.
Jacqueline King shows her character’s caution at starting a relationship well into middle-age then calm experience in dealing with a recalcitrant grown-up daughter who views her as an interloper. But all the performances are uniformly alert and intelligent, on Simon Daw’s flexible setting.
The only false step comes in trying to tie the five strands through the joint image of butterflies. One story involves the creatures, and they are a useful symbol of transience and beauty. But as butterfly references begin appearing in the various stories, and visually on people’s clothing, they are a dramatic device, imposing a link which works better through implication among the playwrights’ fine individual contributions.
Cast: Alex Beckett, Peter Bramhill, Caroline Faber, Edward Hancock, Jacqueline King, Katie McGuinness, Kate Sissons, Zara Tempest-Walters, Mark Wingett.
Directors: Tim Roseman, Paul Robinson.
Designer: Simon Daw.
Lighting: Gary Bowman.
Sound: John Leonard.
Voice/Dialect coach: Martin McKellan.
Movement: Imogen Knight.
Fight director: Richard Hay.
Dramaturgs: Steve Harper, Sarah Dickenson.
Associate director: Lisa Cagnacci.
Assistant director: Jane Moriarty.
Assistant designer: Nik Corrall.
Associate costume: Natalie Moggridge.