by Alice Birch.

Orange Tree Theatre 20 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 7 March 2015.
Mon-Sat 8.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 17 Feb, 21 Feb 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 12 Feb 2.30pm ,19 Feb 7.30pm.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 February.

Generates dramatic heat.
A pleasant setting – a house near the sea. A familiar setting: a family reunion as two sisters meet. It’s something of an annual ritual, with the same food, wine and procedure each year.

Yet something’s wrong. Between Alison and Teddy, who live here. And there’s a compulsion forcing the characters together. Something stays unspoken. Teddy has ripped out the staircase that morning. And the light, intense as it can be from the start (it’s several times referred to), is more glare than illumination.

These characters are wonderfully well played. But, for no reason mentioned in the play, they are played by a Black actor, Lorna Brown – finely controlled with a suppressed, determined fury – and Paul Rattray, whose Scottish tones tread the line between accommodation and danger.

Such things stand-out in Richmond, especially when sister Clarissa is almost defiantly English Rose in Yolanda Kettle’s pale-complexioned sweetness (and there’s that so-Richmond name), while the partner she surprises the others by bringing, Simon, is a doctor from the full-on apologetic acceptance school of English male politeness. He’s the one character where playwright Alice Birch or David Mercatali’s production overplays its hand, though Paul Hickey follows the line plausibly.

Between the landline’s disconnection and the dead area for mobile signals, this is the old cut-off setting of many a past mystery plot. And Little Light might be marketed for its suspense value.

But most mystery-based plots lose heat as light falls onto the situation. Not here. Because the source of the tensions emerges gradually, and, even more, because it is built out of the characters, making eventual clarity about the situation as much thought-provoking as it is resolution.

Written six years ago, this was the writer’s first full-length play. Today, she might avoid the long, late-action explanatory speeches, and, instead, interweave late-action exposition about the past with events in the developing situation. That apart, this accomplished debut comes in a sharp staging which (like the last modern play here, Pomona) shows incoming Artistic Director Paul Miller taking the Orange Tree towards a new performance aesthetic while maintaining its strength in new work.

Alison: Lorna Brown.
Teddy: Paul Rattray.
Clarissa: Yolanda Kettle.
Simon: Paul Hickey.

Director: David Mercatali.
Designer: Madeleine Girljng.
Lighting: Christopher Nairne.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Fight director: Craig Hamblyn.

2015-02-12 11:12:51

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