by Jason Hall.
Trafalgar Studios (Studio 2) 14 Whitehall SW1A 2DY To 5 November 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7632.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 October.
Smart young comedy that strives for more.
Something stands between the two neighbours in Jason Hall’s new play: it’s number 10. Why 10 is between 11 and 12 is part of the mystery of theatre, or at least the problem of suggesting two sides of a corridor when everything has to face one way, and solid walls are obligatory.
For this shared ownership London flat-block is a place of solo living – if we don’t know either character’s name, that’s because they never ask each other At 12, Emily Head’s smart young executive type owns 25%, having reserved her waterside apartment the day applications opened, while Craig Gazey’s character owns 55% overlooking the car-park.
Their many brief encounters don’t develop into a relationship. Unsurprisingly, given his hoodie complex and her smart, ever-changing wardrobe. And, if the Hitchcock DVDs weren’t suspicious enough (she’s never seen a Hitch movie), 11’s loud party and individual drunkenness, the violent anguish of his migraine and general intrusive manner would keep 12 at bay.
In time, Hall provides her with moments of disarray that are a milder version of his. But it’s their responses to the unseen neighbour at 10 which cause most rows on the corridor (entering another person’s flat here is indefensible for 12).
Like one of Hall’s own neighbours in his shared-ownership block, 10 keeps leaving obnoxious-smelling bin-bags in the corridor. This leads to various tactics, eventually bringing about a situation which darkens proceedings from the earlier odd (non-)couple comedy.
Neither the playwright nor director Russell Labey can give complete reality to all the cameo scenes, while the switch to something darker has mixed success. The truth about their neighbour hits home well, but its impact on their encounters strains for a Hitchcock-like drama, as the stakes haven’t been piled-up enough in terms of these characters.
Still, the parts might have been written for these actors (sometimes, it feels so natural they might have rewritten them slightly themselves). Anyway, Craig Gazey at 11 has a stock of facial expressions and movements to conceal any personality, while Emily Head brings eternal shallow politeness, distaste and moments of grief to perfect pitch.
11: Craig Gazey.
12: Emily Head.
Director: Russell Labey.
Designer/Costume: Jason Denvir.
Lighting: Mike Robertson.
Sound/Music: Theo Holloway.
Assistant lighting: Rob Casey.