Thursday, December 19, 2013


Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court

Well it's not Private Lives. In Coward's play, the tangled quartet of lovers are vapid but witty and articulate. In Craig's, they are presumably highly intelligent [playwright, lawyer], but speak in semi-coherent soap-opera clich├ęs.
If we are to sympathise at all, it won't be because of the writing, which hardly distinguishes between them.
But the structure is effective – the piece comes full circle, and the mutually wounding relationships are played out against one wedding and two funerals, Christmas and Valentine's Day. The setting is simple, with tiny framed photos of moments of happiness. The playlist, with U2's With Or Without You at the top, neatly reflects the angst and the agony.
And the performances, in Emma Moriaty's deft but depressing production, are plausible, often moving, occasionally very funny.
Most endearing, perhaps, Laura Bradley's management consultant, a complex character, visibly torn between love and forgiveness.
Most ironic, the writer called Wilde, who can't find the words for his plays or his relationships. A strong performance from Joe Kennedy, memorably beating himself up in the opening scene [a prologue, added since the first version of the piece] foreshadowing the rows to come.
Most transparent, Jacob Burtenshaw's “childish, weird” lawyer – his first scene with Bradley crackles with chemistry.
Most desperately insecure, the York hairdresser played by Sarah Chandler. Not as much of a class outsider as the text might suggest, but excellent in the hotel scene where the two “innocent parties” have an ill-advised tryst.
What's going to happen to us?” I'm not sure we care, to be honest. Aristotle, bizarrely cited here, suggested that couples are striving for the happiness only union can bring. These characters seem to bring most of their misery on themselves; what motivates them often remains a mystery.

But CTW, giving this fifteen-year-old drama a rare staging, do their best to make the dialogue and the character development realistic; the result is a believable, if uncomfortable, snapshot of 21st century relationships: over-verbalized, masochistic and emotional. As the Master has Amanda say, “I think very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives...”

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