THE POTSDAM QUARTET
by David Pinner.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1Y 6ST To 23 November 2013.
Mon–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 287 2875.
Review: William Russell 30 October.
One Potsdam thing after another.
This is the first professional production of David Pinner’s play for 35 years and one can see why. It is deeply flawed, although the premise is undeniably interesting.
A string quartet has been summoned to play for the political leaders attending the July 1945 Potsdam Conference, which set the scene for the Cold War. But, apart from some ill-focused rant about empire and communism from the quartet members, we learn next to nothing about the political and diplomatic situation.
Pinner focuses instead on relationships between the quartet as they wait in an ante-room squabbling about their future and the lack of food. Pinner has set up a series of banal disputes which neither illuminate what makes a quartet a thing of genius nor have any relevance to what the Big Beasts are up to.
That two of the members are homosexuals joined in unholy matrimony and desperate to escape the ties that bind them to Aaron, the obsessive leader of the quartet, should have resulted in some interest, while the fact the third member, unknown to himself, has the beginnings of Parkinson’s disease lends added interest. But the high camp bickering does not add up to profound drama. Whatever impact it had 35 years ago has disappeared.
Anthony Bigg’s fine production is not to blame. Performances are good, although, as so often in small venues, actors shout when they should speak. Philip Bird and Stefan Bednarczyk as the homosexual Taylor and Healey bicker like an old married couple, but there is no chemistry between them so they remain unconvincing.
Daniel Crowder does a decent job as the proletarian Swift who has the career-threatening shakes, and Michael Matus is impressive as Aaron, a petty tyrant estranged from his music student son.
Pinner has nothing of interest to say about what Big Beasts get up to as it affects the small fry waiting outside the conference room for something to happen. As for the fifth character, a Russian soldier who stands guard he exists only as a lust object for the two gays. Ged Petkunas, makes the most of this thankless role.
Aaron Green: Michael Matus.
Douglas Swift: Daniel Crowder.
Ronald Taylor: Philip Bird.
John Healey: Stefan Bednarczyk.
Russian soldier: Ged Petkunas.
Director: Anthony Biggs.
Designer: Cherry Truluck.
Lighting: David W Kidd.
Sound: Thomas Cassidy.
Musical Advisors: Jose Gandia, Julia Hart, Matthew Lee.