Can you fool the children of the revolution?
By Wilf Arasaratnam
I was intrigued by this play. How could the cataclysmic October Revolution of Bolshevik Russia have anything to do with romantic comedy? However, I went in with an open mind and hoped for a revolutionary experience.
Once at the New Wolsey Studio, I picked up an explanatory one page programme before entering the cosy auditorium and soon it was packed with a sell out audience of diverse ages, races and genders.
Throughout the play, a minimalist set of a park bench or a small grass green painted stage was used.
Each act in this play was set in the consecutive Octobers of 1999 to 2001, in three very different garden settings. The minimalist sets were complemented by restrained sound effects and background music which were limited to the start of each act to help set the scene.
This restraint of set and sound effects led the audience to focus exclusively on the dialogue and delivery of the two actors - Laura Corbett, who played the young art student Kath, and Lloyd Thomas, who played the writer Philip.
The intriguing opening act started with Philip proclaiming the joys of the tea served in a certain Brighton park. I was initially underwhelmed by his physical and vocal delivery and found Laura Corbett's youthful energy and expressive mannerisms appealing.
However, I realised that the strength of this duo's acting was that they conveyed with subtlety their characters' traits through dialogue and mannerisms.
Whilst Kath had a playful physical energy, Philip's reserved dialogue was gifted with witty one liners.
The vandalism of the Blue Peter garden was described as being "our equivalent of September 11th" and this and many other witty comments led to laughter from both myself and the rest of the audience.
In Act II, the tone starts to darken and Kath is revealed to have some manipulative and sinister elements. The subtlety of the writing in the play is demonstrated when young fogey Philip struggles with Kath's mobile phone.
Ten years ago these were rare and I thought this dialogue was an inspired authentic touch by the playwright.
Interesting twists and turns follow leaving us in suspense for the final act which was delivered after an interval.
After the provincial locations of the previous acts, the final act is set in the Blue Peter garden of the BBC TV studios. This act leads to a change in the tones of the characters.
I liked how the dialogue and Lloyd Thomas gradually build up Philip's anger in a measured way so that when he explodes with expletives and loses his measured self this seems believable rather than over dramatic. The ambiguous finale is also satisfying.
At the end of the play I kind of felt like some kind of emotional voyeur to Kath and Philip.
However, my interest in them was not from expecting illicit stage action but from the cut and thrust of their dialogue and emotional manipulation.
I think this is an unpretentious play that many audiences will enjoy due to its focus on witty dialogue and sharp characterisation, leading to a well-paced compelling story of tantalising love.
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last updated: 04/06/2009 at 13:38
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