by Martin Crimp
Arcola Theatre 27 Arcola Street E8 2DJ To 23 October 2010.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 October.
Fine revival of a play that’s no pastoral paradise.
Few theatres are more defiantly urban in location than Dalston’s Arcola. Yet Martin Crimp’s play, first seen ten years ago, is exactly fitted to its playing-space, set-up in-the-round. Corinne and Richard may have gone in search of pastoral peace, but it is open to invasion, both by Rebecca whom Richard brings home, and by the tensions in the mind of this doctor and his wife.
Here are no green pastures; designer Anna Bliss Scully builds their home upon layers of slate-like surfaces that burrow through history as Crimp digs into their lives. This countryside is resistant; they only venture from home on business. Or so it seems – Crimp isn’t one for factual exposition. The maybes and perhapses are the potent aspect of a play that can sometimes seem like naked Pinter, but at others expresses the tentative feel of relationships lived through a mud of lies and denials.
However lightly each of the four scenes begins, it soon enters thickets of hostility, resentment and threat. And behind the three audience rows is open space, with birch-trees spread around. It might be Chekhov’s Russia, with similar prevalent unease. And motor-cars, which imply vulnerability to the outside.
Never appearing all together, the married couple are together in the outer scenes, with the woman Richard’s brought home disturbing the inner pair. Adding to the fissures between them, she’s an outsider – an American here – who could be real or an emanation of their tensions and suspicions. Where, Crimp asks, is reality: in the externals, including the literal meaning of characters’ words, or in inner strains, the thoughts our words express, disguise or conceal?
Amelia Nicholson directs with a light manner that never undermines the anxieties and discontents. Every minor action – Corinne cutting her finger or quietly removing the new shoes Richard’s bought her, he tangling himself in the flex of the telephone that’s slightly old-fashioned in their would-be idyll – complements the disjunctive, occasionally overlapping dialogue. Simon Thorp’s apparently confident vocal authority, Amanda Root’s lightness in speech and movement, a mix of middle-age and girlishness, Naomi Wattis bringing a sinuously assertive force, are equally excellent.
Corinne: Amanda Root.
Richard: Simon Thorp.
Rebecca: Naomi Wattis.
Director: Amelia Nicholson.
Designer/Costume: Anna Bliss Scully.
Lighting: Richard Williamson.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Assistant director: Catherine Hooper.