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July 25, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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Eating Dirt, Sweating Mud Season Two

‘The Lover’

by harold pinter

Context is everything, and by this I mean where and when and to whom a play is to be performed. With Harold Pinter’s The Lover, director Rachelle Fons serves up a fast-moving, funny, clever show which asks for a provision of the audience’s mind and makes no demands of the heart, though it will accommodate if one is willing. Fine by me. It is also, importantly, one act long. In a season of 40-minute experiences, it is the complete stories you remember. The sheer pace of the show is immediately engaging. Actors Maggie White and Jonathan-Ashley Harris spout dialogue at a rate of knots in a well pitched parody of upper-middle class routine that is neither too clinical nor overly charged. The pitch and pace produces some good comedy, and the rare unsuccessful moments were quickly forgotten. White in particular shows considerable stamina and dexterity, finding space in the break-neck script for moments of real vulnerability and providing just enough feeling to lift the absurd farce into the realm believability. The set and lighting are successful by virtue of their simplicity. All in all, well selected, well directed, well acted, well done.

‘Seascape with Sharks and Dancer’

by don nigro

If the following focuses too much on the script and neglects the production itself, it is in deference to the actors and director. A script, we are taught, is but the seed of a text, to be brought to life onstage, where it finds completeness. But a seed can be so putrid that one would be ill-advised in planting it. Don Nigro’s Seascape With Sharks and Dancer is such a seed, and humanity should curse him for smearing it onto paper.

A plot summary is impossible in that it presupposes plot; it is a play about a couple who shouldn’t be together but are still together because it’s a play about a couple who shouldn’t be together. If Nigro’s greatest success is creating the world’s most implausible relationship, his second greatest is creating the world’s most unlikeable character with the impossibly rancorous and viciously self-loathing Tracy. There is no couple more ill-suited to embarking on a dialogue of weighty issues than Tracy and her incompetent and indulgently enigmatic writer boyfriend, Ben, and yet Nigro finds it fit to put the topic of abortion in their vacuous mouths.

Director Cherie Le Quesne’s biggest mistake was coming within spitting distance of this play. The performances were adequate, but this only demonstrated how distasteful the whole affair is. I wanted Ben and Tracy to kill each other or themselves (the most implausible thing about the whole play is that they don’t) or, failing that, me.

I must, however, question the lighting and set design. There is obviously some symbolic meaning to be had from the suggestively patterned windows and couch and the whirling, psychedelic cyc, but I couldn’t make anything of it. Sometimes less is more, and the last thing you want to do is dizzy an already queasy audience member.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Clare Wilson says:

    I have to say, I found Seascape with Sharks and Dancer an intriguing piece, quite in contrast to you there Jonathan. It seems to me that the subject matter or style of this play is clearly not to your liking, but it is a shame not to recognize the strength between the two actors and their ability (in my humble opinion) to grapple with quite difficult subject matter. I was at times moved by the honesty of the performance. It seems a shame also to dismiss the type of paradoxical relationship that was shown, just because it seems ‘implausible’. Truth, as Blake would say (cue pretentious quotation) is sometimes stranger than fiction. Having said all this, i think its fascinating that the play had such an affect on you, and perhaps in itself that is quite interesting to see.

  2. Jonathan Price says:

    Clare: You, me, coffee, talk.

  3. Clare Wilson says:

    haha we’ll see

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