by Barney Norris.
Arcola Theatre (Arcola 2) 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 29 March.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3pm.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
then Tour to 8 April 2014.
Runs 1hr 40min One Interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 March.
Two glorious performances catch the complexity of the lives they portray.
Romeo and Juliet had it tough, dying young, their love strong as ever. That’s why their story’s a Tragedy. But, as many have asked, supposing they’d lived on, uncushioned by family fortunes?
Death comes to everyone. Not always, though, before mental or physical decay. Edie and Arthur have lived their adult lives together, becoming interdependent in their married love. As with the Wiltshire farmhouse where their lives are comfortably embedded, things are well enough now, but time is taking a steady, irresistible toll.
Arthur trudges stiffly back from the fields. His joints make standing an effort and limit his long-regarded skill with mechanical devices. But Edie’s the immediate concern, aware both her mind and physical functions are teetering near the edge of decay.
There are enough issues hovering around Barney Norris’s play to start a dozen discussions. But it’s distinguished by a script, production and performances that take it deep into the human predicament of ordinary people facing a long, desolate or incapacitated ending that can make Shakespeare’s famous young lovers seem fortunate.
As they sit in the armchairs made comfortable by years of use, these two can seem like characters drawn by Samuel Beckett. Norris doesn’t imitate Beckett, but the great dramatist’s burning images have summed-up so much about human existence.
Norris’s script remains everyday as his characters live their lives. Alice Hamilton’s direction catches the pace and the shorthand people create over the years. Neither words nor actions are over-explicit. These people live for each other not, overtly, for an audience.
And the play is blessed by two wonderful performances from actors who, if not headline stars, represent the core of British acting at its best. Linda Bassett and Robin Soans both invest everyday details with the significance of a deep emotional undercurrent. It’s ‘the banality of evil’ in reverse – the minor detail dignified by human depth.
Eleanor Wyld’s Kate, the young woman who looks after them in return for a place to live, has a suitably sympathetic and reserved manner. Only the self-serving son remains stubbornly the device of the playwright’s pattern. No matter. The riches remain.
Edie: Linda Bassett.
Arthur: Robin Soans.
Kate: Eleanor Wyld.
Stephen: Simon Muller.
Director: Alice Hamilton.
Designer: Francesca Reidy.
Lighting: Simon Gethin Thomas.
Sound/Composer: Frank Moon.