by E V Crowe.
Palace Theatre 20 Clarendon Road WD17 1JZ In rep to 19 October 2013.
17 Sept 3.30pm.
18 Oct 9pm.
19 Oct 5.30pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 01923 225671.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 October.
Broadband play lacks focus.
Like one of its companion pieces (Stacey Gregg’s Override) in the Palace’s ‘Ideal World’ autumn trio of new plays examining the interrelation of the human and digital worlds today, E V Crowe’s Virgin sets two partners in the natural world of rural England. The interior stone walls of Alex Lowde’s set and northern accents from Laura Elphinstone’s Emily and Michael Shelford as her husband Mark, evoke the mixed economy of industry and villages running through West Yorkshire, evident either side of the M62.
Where old industries have died, and the chance of helping manage the arrival of broadband with a London-based enterprise excites Emily. She’s the one out at work, in smart executive suit, venturing on pony-back to deliver documents her slow dial-up won’t send, suspended in a mix of executive stress and excitement at the new world that’s arriving.
Mark, meanwhile, cooks and cares – though she always redefines his concerns in up-to-date business-speak. And it’s a moment of excitement for her, and acceptance from him, when one of the London people comes to stay. It also marks the point where even as fine an actor as Laura Elphinstone can’t fully conceal – nor can the other very competent actors in Joe Murphy’s production – the schematic nature of Crowe’s script.
Sally takes assertion to the point of unmannerly rudeness from the start, asking if she’s taken someone’s chair in a tone that defies objection, refusing the food she’s given as part of an anti-fat programme (the script, though not the casting, seems to suggest Emily is more robustly proportioned than Sally).
Semi-drunk propositioning from another executive, Sally’s enthusiasm for the internet as a phallus, understanding it being like loss of virginity to a huge phallus, all seem schematic, isolated or effortful moments in play that presents the role-reversal of traditional male and female lives and metropolitan views of northerners more than it examines digital influences.
And, as a play its separate scenes remain demonstrations of the point a writer wishes to make, its characters are too often mouthpieces for authorial attitudes, while the exploration of digital matters it never adds up.
Emily: Laura Elphinstone.
Mark: Michael Shelford.
Sally: Rosie Wyatt.
Thomas: Simon Darwen
Director: Joe Murphy.
Designer: Alex Lowde.
Lighting: Colin Grenfell.
Sound/Composer: Isobel Waller-Bridge.
Video: Duncan McLean.
Movement: Shona Morris.