THE COUNTRY To 7 May.

Salisbury.

THE COUNTRY
by Martin Crimp.

Salisbury Playhouse (Salberg Studio) Malthouse Lane SP2 7RA To 7 May 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mati Sat & 5 May 2.45pm.
Post-show Discussion 3 May.
Theatre Day 5 May 11.30am.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.

TICKETS: 01722 320333.
www.salisburyplayhouse.com
Review Mark Courtice 19 April.

Satisfactorily knotty night in the theatre.

The Salberg Studio at Salisbury has developed an impressive track-record of featuring contemporary small-cast plays, which let actors get on with it in a focused, intimate space.

Latest of these is Martin Crimp’s 2000 study of out-of-place townies living in a converted rural granary. They are still gripped in the tentacles of urban vice and are frightened of the slippery moral chaos of the country. The whole is told in elliptical, deep, allusive terms from which startling theatrical moments appear like rocks in the stream.

The logic of events is hard to grasp; time, truth and emotions are changeable, people talk about things but the details don’t match up. For the performers it calls on skill in depth, but the audience works just as hard to tease truth from unreliable narration.

All this makes for a satisfactorily knotty evening in the theatre, underpinned here by some very good acting. As a woman discovering betrayal and the power of her own weakness Cate Hamer is first rate. She’s complicated, moving and a performer very much in control of the material. Her husband Richard, as much sinning as sinned against, is brought queasily to life in Brendan Hughes’ capable hands. As the catalyst of events, student Rebecca is unnervingly self-aware and dangerously equivocal, effectively caught in a performance of subtlety and maturity by Rebecca Blackstone.

In Jo Davies’ production, occasionally the sophistication of Crimp’s complicated tale produces a literal response and the clotted dialogue feels mechanical, but for the most part she makes room for the actors to do their stuff with tact, and responds to the theatricality with a beady eye for effect.

The design by Chloe Lamford provides an uncomfortable space as high-tension urban meets rocky outcrops, and the glimpses of the countryside, both beguiling and dangerous, that holds such sway are sketched with economy and style through projections on a fissured back wall. Peter Hunter sometimes takes the text literally, so emotional darkness is translated into dimness, but mostly technical assurance reflects the virtues of this capable production.

Richard: Brendan Hughes.
Corrine: Cate Hamer.
Rebecca: Rebecca Blackstone.

Director: Jo Davies.
Designer: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting: Peter Hunter.
Sound: Alex Twiselton.

2011-04-24 15:03:58

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