by David Lewis.

Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 22 June 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Tue 2.30pm )+Post-show Discussion), Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 11 June 7.45pm, 15 June 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30min Two intervals.

TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 May.

Watching yourself, watching others, watching birds under an enjoyably comic microscope.
Why did ‘bird become slang for a desirable young woman? Because they were seen as flighty, evasive, attractive in plumage, small in brain, or didn’t eat much at mealtimes? Stereotypes to which society once expected (middle-class) women to live up.

Everybody here’s very middle-class so today, in David Lewis’s comedy, they all have – or are – therapists. Lewis is the Orange Tree’s own playwright; directing his new play, he sets things squarely on the diagonal in this theatre-in-the-round.

Scenes often start as therapy sessions and move into recreating events. Therapist and client sit at opposite corners, and Lewis shifts angles as the therapist changes corners while watching events.

Among Orange Tree Artistic Director Sam Walters’ many achievements has been making farce work on a stage without the concealing doors and furniture of its traditional habitat. Lewis effectively pays tribute to this, his plot entering farcical complications on its non-therapeutic roundabout, amidst which therapists explore their own dilemmas – Paul Kemp’s Charlie with voluble guilt, Lucy Tregear’s Megan with silent anxiety, to operatic accompaniment, at home.

And reaching a comic high as obsessive twitcher Terry finds an extremely rara avis let loose at home by his girl-friend Jill, her eager, youthful naivety caught by Joannah Tincey. She’s brought it to add to his 500+ bird sightings. The double infidelity and misunderstanding revealed by this domestic birdwatching is a shift from the verbal comedy elsewhere, but it gives overt expression to the awkwardness of characters’ behaviour throughout.

If dashing round the country to sight a certain species seems crazy to those not involved, therapy comes to seem a stranger pursuit, while both talking things through and chasing after wildlife are simultaneously obsessions and ways of staying distanced. Stuck in a hide, or seated across a room talking about yourself, or (for 50 minutes at 45 quid a time, cash preferred, and no receipt in sight) listening to others talking, are substitutes for living within a marriage.

No wonder Jill, still young, remains uncomplicated to date, while Amanda Royle’s Fran, played with concentrated and thoughtful precision, finds the world inside and around her, so complex.

Ben: Paul O’Mahoney.
Megan: Lucy Tregear.
Fran: Amanda Royle.
Charlie: Paul Kemp.
Terry: Simon Mattacks.
Karen: Kate Miles.
Jill: Joannah Tincey.

Director: David Lewis.
Designer: Sam Dowson.
Lighting: Stuart Burgess.
Trainee directors: Alexander Lass, Nadia Papachronopoulou.

2013-05-28 14:22:56

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