PLAYGROUND To 7 November.


by Peter Hamilton.

Old Red Lion 418 St John Street EC1V 4NJ To 7 November 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm (no performance 31 Oct) Mat Sat 3pm, Sun 2pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 412 4307 (booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 October.

Crime drama with rewardingly offbeat approach.
There was danger in the world of one-time favourite children’s author Enid Blyton, but her intrepid child adventurers The Famous Five always overcame it together. Amid the outbreak of Blyton reading among today’s young adult patients of (unseen) psychologist Dr Ross, alliances are built on shakier ground as they gather round Isabella’s tea-hut in east London’s Victoria Park.

Blyton’s simplified world becomes preferable to the reality which has seen six children’s heads severed recently in the park. Danny sees a life-stretch in Broadmoor as the solution to life’s complexities, while upper-class Tamsin finds Communism’s certainties comforting as she speaks them in her smilingly confident lady-hostess manner.

Stuart protects himself by sitting within the bars of playground equipment and Carolyn veers towards suicide. But, however their minds seek to protect themselves from the world, real danger lurks.

It’s implied from the start as the cast gather in a circle to sing children’s song ‘Oranges and Lemons’ with its uneasy rhymes and a sudden violent end apt for the play. In his own design, director Ken McClymont surrounds the park play area, with its bright-coloured seats, by wall-mounted blow-ups of covers from Famous Five adventures.

Peter Hamilton approaches matters sidelong. Any one of the characters could be the killer – even Isabella, claiming she carries a knife to cut her home-made cakes and protect her child.

The solution comes in a ’phone-call received by a police-officer investigating in disguise with a cross-dressed constable got up in Blyton-era twinset and pearls. The half-expressed homoeroticism between them is another adult complexity contrasting the patients’ lives.

Hamilton skilfully hands the audience clues to the crimes, which turn-out a backdrop to his intriguing picture of the simultaneous dangers of daily life and the childlike simplicities which are a refuge from them. The killer’s identity and purpose have a logic which accentuates the danger ‘out there’. But it’s the people for whom this playground is life that make the evening, McClymont’s cast creating characters in their way as simple as Blyton’s, but adding the humanity of vulnerability in various forms.

The killer, by the way, is named above.

Danny: Richard Fish.
Bella: Sarah Quist.
Tamsin: Laura Garnier.
Mitchell: Dan McLane.
Birch: Christopher James Barley.
Stuart: Simon Every.
Carolyn: Josie Ayers.

Director/Designer: Ken McClymont.
Lighting/Sound: Simeon Miller.
Music: Sarah, Astrid & Ken.

2015-10-27 10:42:53

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