Reviewed by Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson
Monday, November 11, 2013.
The component parts of debbie tucker green’s new play should make for a top class show. The set is fantastic, the characters are intriguing, and the writing is scintillating, realistic and pitch perfect. The performances are persuasive and committed. By contrast though the story which holds these elements together is slight and undernourished.
In typical tucker green’s style [the writer eschews capitals] the piece explores human relationships in all their beauty - and spitefulness as well. Her rhythmically lyrical dialogue is - as expected - well observed, catching the nuances of contemporary speech which is often within just one sentence - relaxed, intimate and sardonic.
With the story told in a compact but not claustrophobic kitchen/diner/studio flat, everyday references are sprinkled throughout the script. It’s a realism not reflected in designer Lisa Marie Hall’s amazing set – where a sculpture comprised of metal beams and industrial material floats above the stage immediately grabbing the audience’s eye.
With four scenes at just over 75 uninterrupted minutes the piece is both concise and enthralling; enough to capture The Shed’s attention, and to keep it; because these characters are recognisable. Directed competently by the author, the issues dramatised are equally identifiable. And because they are so acutely personified they are persuasive and entertaining as well. Do we see ourselves in these episodes? It’s a question this writer often raises.
The characters – all adept and skillful performers delivering comedic and overlapping vernacular - depict interlinked stories of tense and difficult relationships. Along the way the writer addresses mortality, friendship, loyalty, rivalry and jealousy.
At the core is Nadine Marshall’s Elayne, in a performance which conveys perhaps false self-assurance with underlying vulnerability and anxiety. Eloquent and confident whilst masking a terrible secret - perhaps more than one - Elayne’s interaction with Sophie Stanton’s brash, Aimee and Anthony Welsh’s street smart Devon hints at but never quite resolves the mystery. A clue is young Trey [Tobi Adetunji on Press Night], an enigmatic presence whose character and role is never clarified – an apparition, a bad memory – a symbol of loss.
The question is not answered.
The bittersweet sexual tension between ex-partners is conveyed strongly by Gershwyn Eustache Jr's passionate and volatile ex-Husband and Sharlene Whyte’s [sexually frustrated] ex-Wife. Bickering over an unseen child, they circle the stage in a dance of mutual cigarette smoking and arguments which surely signal make-up sex.
In its young life The Shed has established itself as an important venue on London’s theatre scene for new, experimental or works in progress; nut seems a perfect fit.
The Shed, National Theatre, London
Box Office: 020 7452 3000
Book tickets online at www.theshedtheatre.co.uk
until 5 December 2013
Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson is The New Black Magazine's arts editor and a London-based freelance journalist.