RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN
by Gina Gionfriddo.
Hampstead Theatre Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 22 February 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 15 Feb 3pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 18 Feb (+ Transcribed Post-show Discussion).
Post-show Discussion 18 Feb.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 January.
They think they’ve got problems?
There are plays where the debate is intelligent, the wit evident and the performances superb, but where you feel that, were the characters suddenly swept away, your world would not be a bit the poorer.
That doesn’t, of course, mean other people in the same audience won’t find the whole thing absorbing. But though the matter of women – educated, intelligent, apparently confident middle-class women of sufficient means in American society – is discussed and exemplified in the experiences of former college friends Gwen and Catherine, is well-conceived, the playwright’s dramatic scheme lies apparent beneath the surface of shimmering dialogue.
As for real suffering, the nearest to that is baby-sitter Avery’s – though her black eye came from involvement with a reality show, doesn’t seem to bother her and certainly doesn’t prevent her contributing her own ideas and setting the course of others’ lives. For that matter, Catherine’s mother Alice, determined to defy her predicted imminent demise, encourages adventure in life, certain her daughter should be tied by neither man nor mother.
The fulcrum for the mid-generation pair is the once-and-future partner of both, Don. An affable. spiritless man he is the only one excluded by author Gina Gionfriddo from the rather contrived classes on feminism, horror-films, the internet and pornography which crop-up along the way (though he’s not above availing himself of the last).
Jonathan Fensom’s sets reinforce the sense of privilege in which these characters worry at their emotional concerns, be it the fenced-off territory of Gwen and Don’s backyard where the play starts, or the elaborate display of plates in Catherine’s house.
All this is capably directed by Peter Dubois and the cast could, any one of them, give a measure of credibility to contrived situations and characters tacking-about with the play’s thematic winds.
The sharp eruptions of M L Dogg’s score at scene ends, help supply a significance that might otherwise remain exposed. It’s literate and looks, if a bit predictably, at the choices some women have, in live s devoid of problems with plumbing, subsidence or poverty. Many a woman would be envious of such high-end dilemmas.
Gwen: Emma Fielding.
Catherine: Emilia Fox.
Don: Adam James.
Avery: Shannon Tarbet.
Alice: Polly Adams.
Director: Peter Dubois.
Designer: Jonathan Fensom.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: John Leonard.
Music: M L Dogg.
Dialect/Voice coach: Penny Dyer.
Assistant director: Audrey Sheffield.