by Chris Dunkley.

The Cut (Main House) New Cut IP19 8BY To 11 May 2013.
7 May 4pm & 8pm.
9 May 4pm & 7.30pm.
11 May 3.15pm & 7.30pm.
Run s 1hr 15min No interval.

TICKETS: 01603 598606.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 May at Nuffield Theatre Southampton.

Intricate detail develops a bigger picture of individual lives.
Seen first in Southampton then at this year’s High Tide Festival in the Suffolk village of Halesworth, Chris Dunkley’s small, yet significant, Smallholding is set roughly midway between the two, in rural East Northamptonshire. It’s no idyll; the way Andy smashes into their house makes he and partner Jen seem like squatters. They’re not, but their entrance fits their precarious hold on life here.

A smallholding needs food growing for sale. But Andy still has to get a grip on himself and Jen, apparently in control of the situation and trying to sort out their affairs, has a knowledge of Andy’s problem which turns out a clue to her own situation.

Their life turns out as much a car-crash as the journey’s end to their new home. Trying to free themselves from past troubles, the pair hardly have the resources to sort out the suppliers and customers their business will need.

Dunkley’s gradual revelation is matched by the performances in Patrick Sandford’s production – a small-scale but fittingly high-quality end to his long tenure at Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre. The honest expression of human nature and relationships has always been key in Sandford’s work and is vital here.

It is, often literally, a quiet play and the intensity held by characters’ silences grips the theatre. Isolated moments of disturbance stand out more strongly in the rhythm of these lives. Mostly the acting drives the story through detail – Chris New’s just-noticeable over-enthusiasm in speech, the slight tremble as he pours water or milk, the hopeful uncertainty of Matti Houghton’s questions, her sudden stiffening as her resolve gives way, followed by the subtle transformation of attractive features into slackened fatigue.

Dunkley charts Jen’s resolve through desire for her child; Andy’s hope for stability isn’t the racing-oar he claims belonged to Steve Redgrave, but her trust in him. His eventual betrayal of this degrades yet possibly saves her, while leaving him alone at home, on the smallholding and in life.

No detail is extraneous, no gesture of face or voice wasted in the performance of Dunkley’s remorseless yet unsensational analysis of these two young people.

Jen: Matti Houghton.
Andy: Chris New.

Director: Patrick Sandford.
Designer: Fabrice Serafino.
Lighting: David W Kidd.
Sound: Rob Jones.

2013-05-05 18:53:09

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