SPOON FACE STEINBERG
by Lee Hall.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1 6ST To 20 July 2013.
Mon–Sat 8pm Mat Sat & 11, 18 July 4pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS:0207 287 2075.
Review: William Russell 2 July.
Thinking aloud about life – and death.
A critic has a choice – bone up on the subject before hand or go sight unseen. For Lee Hall’s play, hot foot from holiday, I went knowing only that it deals with autism.
In fact it is a radio play he wrote in 1997 which was subsequently adapted for the stage, and is a monologue delivered by a seven year old Jewish girl who is not only afflicted with autism but is dying from cancer. Through her thoughts we follow her journey as she comes to terms with the really horrible hand life has dealt her.
The difficulty for me caused by that ignorance – the monologue is splendidly delivered by Lucy Hollis – was that it took ages to realise she was playing such a young girl. Ms Hollis looks about fourteen as she bounces vigorously round the stage. Part of the play’s power is that Spoonface is so very young.
But Hollis is, if not utterly spell binding, consistently watchable, and confides Spoonface’s verdicts on this and that with a wonderfully ingratiating smile to her unseen listeners while reflecting that she wants to die like an opera heroine – playing and singing along to the great death scenes on her personal stereo the while. It is a very considerable piece of acting.
Hollis was actor in residence at Glasgow Citizens and the director, Max Barton, associate director at Jermyn Street, was recently assistant director at the Citizens so the production is associated with that theatre. He and designer Carmen Mueck have come up with a staging which fits the tiny Jermyn Street space perfectly – not always the case recently with some productions – and the result is a moving, engrossing and complex evening.
The surface is funny – Spoonface has a pretty wit – but underneath there is real pain as she reflects on her life, on what happened to Jews in the concentration camps, on her warring parents – did they drop her as a baby and is that why she is not quite right in the head? – plays with her toys, fiddles with a Rubik cube, and ponders on how to die like Tosca and all the rest of those ladies.
Spoonface Steinberg: Lucy Hollis.
Director: Max Barton.
Designer: Carmen Mueck.
Lighting: Gerald McDermott.
Sound: Scott Twynholm.