TOWN To 3 July.



Royal and Derngate (Royal stage) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 3 July 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 29 June,
BSL Signed 30 June.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 June.

Alienation is a town called Northampton.
It’s apt Esther Richardson should direct Town on an anonymously narrow strip between two banks of audience, all on the Royal stage. The impression of a street’s increased by placing interiors at the ends, with basic furniture wheeled on when required – one strength of the production is its incorporation of the minimal set-shifting into movement patterns that make the characters seem to be creating their own environment.

In this space John’s first seen running both ways in increasing anxiety. He’s tried London, but now (in the somewhat irrelevant pattern of 18th-century Northants poet John Clare) returns, on benefits. It’s no happy homecoming after the capital’s anonymity. For hometown Northampton’s an alien place itself.

Apart from semi-interested parents, there’s long-time ‘mate’ Anna, with whom one kiss five years ago has led to hanging around mournfully together, though no more physical contact till she gives him a playful kick.

New teenage acquaintance Mary contrasts Anna’s soulful loneliness with disengaged clubbing, but the relationship goes nowhere, except to install her with John’s parents. The two end a stage-world apart, all focused on TV screens.

Among the brief scenes and hesitantly exiguous dialogue are several even more evasive, speeded-up nightscapes. In one John gets drunk, alcoholic desperation increasing as he downs glasses of vodka till he’s pursuing the bottle, crawling along the floor for a shot. In another, he and Mary move in a quick montage through a series on clubs, as she dances ever wilder through the night.

And Tom Robertson’s characters, their names only apparent in the programme, stand for urban hostility, the unspeaking suited executive, or the loud figure isolated in his own drink-dimensioned world.

This is finely played, which a generation or two back would have been unlikely. But developments in theatre writing have made D C Moore’s tenuous, low-key dialogue, with its subtext and landscapes for in-filling, something today’s actors can handle confidently. Mark Rice-Oxley’s John is uncommitted to life or anyone in it, without losing interest or sympathy. And it’s always intriguing to watch, even if the lack of connection is ultimately what extends to the audience.

Eleanor: Karen Archer.
Anna: Joanna Horton.
Mary: Natalie Klamar.
Alan: Fred Pearson.
John: Mark Rice-Oxley.
Ian/Thomas: Tom Robertson.

Director: Esther Richardson.
Designer: Dawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.
Sound: Adam McReady.
Movement: Imogen Knight.
Assistant designer: Oliver Chapman.

2010-06-26 12:14:41

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