by Doug Lucie.
Union Theatre 204 Union Street SE1 0LX To 6 February 2010.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 January.
Progress: if only people didn’t keep getting in the way.
It’s 1983 and the Women’s Movement, of which Ronee is an adherent, has spawned the New Man discussion group, hosted by husband Will, among the youngish of London NW6 in Doug Lucie’s 1984 play. Ronee’s mostly out at her community centre or meeting German lover Andrea. In the group with Will, who cooks and hosts, there’s stolid mechanic Bruce plus Oliver and Martin, a gay couple who become uncoupled with upfront acerbity, rather than the slow rot within Ronee and Will’s ten-year relationship.
This has included, we eventually discover, six years married – Lucie sets characters going, revealing information only when needed. Whatever progress socialist Ronee (her centre feeling the pinch of Thatcherite cuts) and media-man Will try to make, the mess of human relationships remains, as ever, the barrier.
Then there’s not-so-new-man journalist Mark, spouting misogynistic jokes, the tenant Ronee and Will cannot get out of their lives. And Lenny, a violent worker who arrives to beat-up his wife Ange, someone Ronee and Will smother with liberal beneficence.
The women come over most vividly in Stephen Glover’s revival for Silver Thread Productions. Victoria Strachan’s alertly responsive Ronee is shrewd and ironic, while Amy Dawson gives Ange a frail timidity as she curls defensively on the sofa, later showing unreconstructed determination as a sexual pursuer with quietly smiling insistence
Male performances are more varied, Shaun Stone giving a pointed, if sometimes too physically stiff performance as Bruce, who’s learned to live with his stammer and who lets others fuss until he has a purpose in mind, while Gordon Ridout makes evident Oliver’s frustration with a grown-indifferent partner.
Set amid a wealth of period detail by designer Emma Pile and costume designer Abigail Pilkington-Wood (just seeing Ronee, in simply assertive clothes and tastefully colourful scarf, sitting by plainly dressed Ange sums up their respective characters), Glover’s production works best on surfaces. What’s missing is a sense of life around the words, making the production rely on the energy of each line, rather than building dialogue from an underlying pulse. Yet, despite this limitation, the play stands up well just past its quarter-centenary.
Ronee: Victoria Strachan.
Will: Richard Crawley.
Oliver: Gordon Ridout.
Mark: Lawrence Sheldon.
Ange: Amy Dawson.
Lenny: Martin Blakelock.
Bruce: Shaun Stone.
Martin: Christopher Nabb.
Director: Stephen Glover.
Designer: Emma Pile.
Lighting: Jonas P A Fuglseth.
Sound: Alex Garfath.
Costume: Abigail Pilkington-Wood.