RED LIGHT WINTER
by Adam Rapp.
Ustinov Studio Theatre Royal Sawclose BA1 1ET To 31 March 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 01225 448844.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 March.
Increasingly intriguing play of some Americans abroad.
In a familiar pattern, interestingly varied, American Adam Rapp’s 2005 play shows characters in love with the wrong person. Wannabe (but never is) dramatist Matt, seeming to hide from human contact behind his bushy beard in Ilan Goodman’s performance, finds his confident friend, Keir Charles’ Davis, has brought a local prostitute for him to their shabby room at a hotel in Amsterdam.
There’s sex in both acts; forming the climax of the first, though with an enigmatic coda, and violent in the second, where both people end damaged. Yet, throughout, the emergence of an ambiguous kind of loving provides the play’s strength, in characters who are geographically abroad in the first half and remain emotionally so to the end.
Christina’s mix of elusive physical availability and evasive thoughts are beautifully caught by Sally Tatum, from the near-silent seductive performance of her first appearance to the depth of sadness she opens to the man she doesn’t love.
If there’s a problem in Richard Beecham’s British premiere production, opener of the Ustinov’s 3-play American season, it’s with Charles’ Davis. In his own production Rapp deliberately cast an actor “with acres of charm … who could seduce anyone at any time with his wit, sex appeal, and good looks”.
Charles is more your bill-in-a-china-shop Davis, even friendship having a violent edge, his voice loud and attacking. Christina’s report he’d seemed loving at their first meeting is hard to believe, while his final simultaneous abuse of two women simultaneously (and there’s only one in the play) is an aspect of behaviour that switches from cheery arrogance to aggression when he can’t shout others down.
It’s no surprise the long central section, stretching over the interval, when he’s absent is the most involving, though Davis’ rough energy provides a definite contrast, and on its own teeth-on-edge terms Charles’ performance is certainly forceful.
Beecham is sensitive to the play’s rhythms and the cause of its revelations, on Simon Kenny’s set, where untidy rooms suggest two boys who’ve not properly grown-up, and the window-like, red-strip-lit stage reflects the distant, soulless Red Light window where Christina’s first glimpsed.
Matt: Ilan Goodman.
Davis: Keir Charles.
Christina: Sally Tatum.
Director: Richard Beecham.
Designer: Simon Kenny.
Lighting: Emma Chapman.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Composer: Jon Nicholls.
Dialect coach: Rick Lipton.
Singing coach: Louise Shephard.
Fight director: Richard Ryan.
Assistant director: Jessica Edwards.
Assistant lighting: Tim Wickens.