Tristan Bates Theatre
13th January 2018
I was lucky enough to catch the penultimate performance of this promising new play from Jack West, who writes and directs the clever and funny Joshua Glenister and Harriet Clarke in a simple but pleasing reunion of two former lovers who have much to discuss. Rob Hadden, and also Callum Hill, are the producers who have brought this interesting new play to the stage via Rob’s outfit, LAGO Productions. Pretty much the whole cast and creative team are alumni of LIPA and they cut a handsome figure.
The opening sequence, wordless but full of telling action, was a brilliantly comic turn from Glenister, who revealed so much about himself and barely said a word doing it. Clarke was never given quite such control of the stage, and the balance of the play always seemed tipped in his favour. No matter. She arrived soon enough and the sparks began to fly: these were quick-, or indeed razor-sharp-witted souls, and they delighted in scoring points off the other. The repartee was dazzling and swift, suggesting West might have a good future in writing comedies. If so, it would be good to know what might happen with a slightly larger palette: one kept expecting other characters to appear, not least since the similarities with Cowardian high comedy were almost too numerous to disregard.
However, if other people did not materialise, then other moods did. We moved rapidly into a disquisition upon a missing element in their liaison, a third character of vital importance did emerge, and then the play found itself wandering into ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ territory. The skies darkened. Scenery looked in immediate danger of being chewed. And this created a profound shift in the direction of the now serious and adult play, a shift which was not quite always followed by the conversation, which persisted in switching into lighter colours whenever it could. It’s not yet completely clear where West’s heart lies, but he is a relative newcomer to this craft and surely will take time in experimenting with different voices. I’m sure he wants to be taken seriously, and there was much in this play that invited us to do just that, but the impression that lingers longest for me is of his earlier comedic mood, where his sympathies seemed most harmoniously distributed, freest of melodrama, and most humane.
I understand the play is likely to be expanded for another run elsewhere, and West himself is busy on new works. Watch out for his next creations.