THE BURGLAR WHO FAILED
by St John Hankin.
RETURN TO SENDER
by Omar El-Khairy.
by Amiri Baraka.
Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 30 June 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm & Tue 2.30pm (+ post-show discussion).
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 June.
Young directors work best with established scripts.
This year the Orange Tree’s annual end-of-season Showcase for the year’s assistant directors moves from a two to three play evening.
Karima Setohy adds to the sub-Shavian froth of St John Hankin (whose The Charity That Began at home came earlier in the season). Burglar shows an untidy Edwardian girl seeing-off her mother then facing-down an intruder under the bed. His ferocity’s as assumed as his facial hair and she ends-up helping him to gainful employment. Jessica Clark takes advantage of the opportunity to show Dolly’s self-satisfied confidence, and momentary anger when David Antrobus’s Bill admits to shooting a neighbour’s dog.
A neat piece, it could do with tighter pacing, Antrobus repeatedly having to use Bill’s cold to fill-in slack moments. The comedy contrasts Return to Sender, where a member of the Orange Tree’s new writers’ group ‘responds’ to Burglar with a modern intruder, Rebecca, tying up someone else’s parents, leaving Antrobus and Paula Stockbridge writhing helplessly – less the result of the duck-tape than because their characters are negligible.
The script has several references to Hankin’s, but only one helps the piece itself; the householders’ anger on learning, through sinister suggestion, that their dog’s been killed.
The main interest is Rebecca’s possible connection to their daughter, and the gap between generations. Clark again seizes opportunities, showing Rebecca’s brightness, conjugating Latin while combing her prisoner Heather’s hair. But the piece needs more development than a director looking to their own showcase can reasonably provide.
Polina Kalinina revives Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)’s 1964 subway-train Dutchman, a poetic, sometimes over-written meeting of a White woman who knows she’s on society’s fringe with a smartly-dressed Black man who she provokes into declaring he’s an outsider in White society too. It loses edge from not having the other passengers Baraka prescribed, and the final ride to the climax always risks losing out on clarity for a sense of emotional intensity. Here, too, the insertion of self-conscious movement works against the dramatic consistency.
Still, Paapa Essiedu charts the slow unsettling and eventual rage skilfully, while Sally Oliver builds on the sexually upfront challenge of her Lula.
The Burglar Who Failed:
Bill Bludgeon: David Antrobus.
Dolly Maxwell: Jessica Clark.
Mrs Maxwell: Paula Stockbridge.
Return to Sender:
Tom: David Antrobus.
Rebecca: Jessica Clark.
Heather: Paula Stockbridge.
Clay/Young Man: Paapa Essiedu.
Lula: Sally Oliver.
Conductor: David Ajao.
Directors: Karima Setohy (Burglar, Return), Polina Kalinina (Dutchman).
Designer: Sam Dowson.
Lighting: Stuart Burgess.
Assistant design: Katy Mills.
Movement (Dutchman): Hannah Whittingham.