Paul Johnson | 09 Sep 2011 16:44pm
4Play, written by Eddie Coleman and Directed by Charles Doyle is possibly one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen. As someone who normally picks a Musical over a straight play I was completely enthralled with this production. From the complex but easily explained plot to the fantastic original set and lighting. The story reveals Brian Rose who is married to wheelchair bound Carole but having an affair with the slightly addictive Natalie on the advice of his wife in an attempt to keep their marriage alive. Whilst at a dance class Brian and Natalie hit it off and their not so run-of-the-mill affair ensues. Natalie often discusses her new-found love life with her flatmate Danny while Brian finds himself confiding in his scatterbrain secretary, Emma. Once the affair starts Brian finds out that Natalie loves the idea of living her life through Role Play and they decide to don the guise of secret agent Brad Reed and Russian spy Natasha. They play out thrilling scenarios, often in open spaces, pushing their fantasies to the limit. This plot sounds quite easy to follow until I point out that all of these characters are only played by two actors and each small sub storyline involving the flatmate and the secretary and even the wife is part of one huge complicated story. Brian and Natalie are, in fact, married and have been for five years. They have elaborately played out this whole scenario inventing characters like Carole and Danny for their own gratification. But at what cost? At times they both question their ability to stop the role play and simply just be “themselves”. Eddie Coleman should be patted on the back (and more) for his superbly written dialogue. At no point was the storyline difficult to follow as it flowed very nicely. This was clearly also down to the Direction of Charles Doyle, who really ran with this story. He said in the programme that he hadn’t previously read the play but had merely been asked to Direct on the premise that he was “Reliable” and reliable he was!! It almost looked like each scene had been broken down and rehearsed as a play in its own entity. The scenes were like a Tarantino film with each scene being played out of sequence and it was obvious that the Direction had been passed to the Actors concisely and with meaning, which they in turn executed brilliantly. The complex plot was nicely complemented by the simple but effective staging, which were simply a white oblong floor space and three red blocks. These blocks acted as tables and chairs and were moved around by the Stage Manager when indicated by three red lights which showed where they should be. Each scene started with a floor plan being projected onto the floor, which I thought was a genius idea, and clearly illustrated what room they were in, where the doors were and allowed the actors to perform clearly to the audience which was on both sides of them. I must at this point make mention of the wonderful music in the piece. Since the piece was based around the idea of Secret Agents and Spies, it was a nice touch to have the slick scene changes accompanied by the themes from the various Bond films. Barry Heseldon, who played Brian, Brad, Danny and Dr Madson and Jenny McLaughlin, who played Natalie, Natasha, Carole and Emma were highly skilled and utterly convincing in each role they played. They adopted new postures, accents and demeanours which meant you almost looked past the fact that it was the same actor playing several roles and saw them as each of their “characters”. They took you through a series of emotions and at times you felt for them and then equally frustrated with them but always wondering what was going to happen next. Both of these actors showed great versatility and were incredibly controlled yet when the dialogue asked for it they portrayed real anger, relief, panic, passion and frustration. At no time during the 2 hours of this piece did these two stage masters let the pace drop, which is difficult when you are going from Russian seductress to wheelchair bound down trodden housewife or boring accountant to camp flatmate. I have no doubt that a lot of their stability in the roles came from very good Direction but it was clear that both Heseldon and McLaughlin fully understood the characters they were representing and played each with equal vim and vigor. 4Play is a brilliant piece of work by South London Theatre, I urge more people to go and see it. It is dramatic, funny, witty, and clever and keeps you thinking right until the very last second. All involved in this production should be very pleased with themselves.
- : admin
- : 16/02/2011