by Torben Betts.
Park Theatre (Park 90) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park To 14 March 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 870 6876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 March.
Muswell Hill goes down well enough at Finsbury Park.
Is this an aspect of gentrification? First the middle-classes move in, then the playwrights come, writing their scathing satires? From John Mortimer’s 1970 quartet of short plays Come As You Are – if not before – London districts have attracted comic comment. And nowhere more than those increasingly occupied by people in social circumstances similar to the writers themselves.
The characters in Torben Betts’ 2012 play may party in the living-room but he shows them in the kitchen – an influence, maybe, from Alan Ayckbourn, who has presented Betts’ work in Scarborough, and whose Absurd Person Singular, as I mentioned in reviewing this play’s Orange Tree premiere, also consists of gatherings in kitchens.
The relationship between young professionals Mat and Jess seems to be toddling along almost satisfactorily till he throws a relationships googly into the conversation. In her bright dress and make-up Annabel Bates’ Jess tried to keep the tone positive, though anxiety shows through. Jack Johns’ continues working on his laptop at a book which gathers publishers’ rejections. Whether sexual jealousy or his sense of failure contrasting the successful, active Jess lies at the root of his sudden comment is intriguingly ambiguous.
This production is re-staged from Kennington’s White Bear Theatre, where it played with a part-different cast. Its assistant director is now credited as co-director, and it’s hard to think there’s been radical reworking. New cast-member Charlotte Pyke drags herself depressively round the stage and off the wagon, a descendent, it might be, of Absurd Person‘s suicidal Eva Jackson, while Ralph Aiken’s Simon has a clear misanthropy, expressed in speech if less soaking through his nature than is the case with Pyke’s Karen. The fraught pair’s sustained holding of frangible crockery builds its own comic tension
The late arrivals are over-confident young sister Annie and decades older theatre director Tony. Gregory Cox catches the mannerisms of the plum-voiced theatrical, and the condescending condemnation of everyone else by someone who can’t see, or admit, their own failure. But these two remain caricatures in a revival which plays the satire straight and strong while missing the chance of much complexity.
Mat: Jack Johns.
Jess: Annabel Bates.
Karen: Charlotte Pyke.
Simon: Ralph Aiken.
Annie: Nicole Abraham.
Tony: Gregory Cox.
Directors: Roger Mortimer, Deborah Edgington.
Lighting: Jack Weir.
Sound: Roger Mortimer.
Fight director: Andrei Zayats.