by Claudia Dey.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SR1 6BD To 7 December 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.
TICKETS: 030 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 November.
A manual of playwriting techniques but little life.
Over in Earl’s Court the Finborough Theatre has been an advocate of Canadian playwriting for several years. But Southwark Playhouse puts Canadian drama’s reputation in doubt with this derivative, repetitive piece.
It can’t perhaps be blamed for revisiting Philip Ridleyville circa 1991 in presenting two sisters, Sugar and Grace, professedly twins (though played by actors about as physically unlike as possible), whose opposite temperaments create a kind of mutual dependency overcast by death. As they come to 30, screeching birthday greetings at each other, a murderer on the loose (in a plot element tacked on, like so much here, for thematic purpose and cast loosely aside in narrative outcome) seems the current reason they’re stuck in their home together.
Sinéad Matthews’ Sugar, a bright, light-textured candyfloss confection, her life on hold, alternates energy and volume with periods of swooning unconsciousness as the more obviously dependent. Death-obsessed Grace, tall, black-haired (abundant foliage seems one family characteristic), purposeful in movement, is aggressively protective, her skin merging with the bare-legged camouflage clothing she’s been given for modelling a gun-shop’s billboard poster.
Vinette Robinson clearly proclaims Grace’s image as a lioness guarding Sugar when Trout Stanley, his fishy name never explained even to him, arrives, a creature from the river-bed of living hierarchies in contrast to the lioness.
Robinson spouts some near claptrap with conviction, and Dylan Smith provides a vulnerable pleasantness as the mysterious yet inoffensive visitor whose gentle soul lies behind a sawn-off police uniform and bearded features. But, as the opening dialogue proves only too prophetic of repetition to come over the next nearly-two hours, everything remains stuck as part of a dramatist’s design without coming to kind of independent life.
Robinson provides electricity, while Matthews’ seems stuck within a circuit of childish-innocence effects, and Smith tactfully makes as much of the role as possible. There’s a lot of back-story infilling, all heftily thematic, and Matt Steinberg’s production only emphasises the heavy surface, while making moments of aggression and violence awkwardly stagey.
Despite a strong cast, Earl’s Court rather than Southwark remains the place to search out modern Canadian drama.
Sugar Ducharme: Sinéad Matthews.
Grace Ducharme: Vinette Robinson.
Trout Stanley: Dylan Smith.
TV Reporter: Jeffrey Kofman.
Director: Matt Steinberg.
Designer: Shizuka Hariu.
Lighting: Rob Pell-Walpole.
Sound: Nick Manning.
Assistant director: Manuel Baù.
Associate sound: Beth Price-Williams.