PRECIOUS LITTLE TALENT
by Ella Hickson.
Trafalgar Studios (Studio 2) 14 Whitehall SW1A 2DY To 30 April 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7615.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 April.
Pleasant story of the English in New York.
With a title to tempt critics, if not the fates, Ella Hickson produces a pleasant little comedy, quirkily off-centre within the familiar territory it treads.
Which is, firstly, New York – though two-thirds of her characters are English. The play’s most stylistically adventurous passage comes at the start as young Joey (female, English) meets young Sam (male, American), on a rooftop. (This is deduced from a later line. The programme, by the way, says the action covers three years, but there’s no sign of it in the play.)
This scene’s played twice, from the perception of each character, version two neatly clarifying mysteries from the first run. Then, as these two seem to be the play’s sole subjects, their meeting is explained by a third character, George (English, and Joey’s father).
There’s quite an age gap between George and Joey, and it is the roof above his home where the young people met. In the moment where they learn who the other one is Hickson administers a slight surprise to all but truly savvy audience members, and a big one to Sam and, particularly, Joey.
From when on, it’s a fairly straightforward pattern of love story. Except the love goes several ways, in several meanings of the word. Joey and Sam like each other. Sam and George form a protective alliance which allows room for human feeling between the Black care-worker and the White, middle-class linguistics expert, as Sam does his best to conceal the older man’s declining control of words and facts.
Joey, an exile from an England where neither home nor country has much to offer, sees through their defences and wants her father to know she accepts him. Olivia Hallinan’s Joey imports independence and optimism to the scene, without ever engaging fully with the old and new men in the play’s life.
George could be a tediously self-pitying or offputtingly obstinate old man, but Ian Gelder finds flickers of smiles and determination to hold himself together, while Anthony Welsh gives the potentially least developed character, and family outsider, a strong presence in James Dacre’s smart, swift production.
George: Ian Gelder.
Sam: Anthony Welsh.
Joey: Olivia Hallinan.
Director: James Dacre.
Designer: Lucy Osborne.
Lighting: Mark Jonathan.
Sound: Emma Laxton.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Assistant director: Will Wrightson.