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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Four Seasons
Arcola Theatre       March 2007

Arnold Wesker's 1965 two-hander is more a dramatic poem than a play, an almost actionless set of fugal variations on the themes of love and pain.

Its dreamlike quality resembles some European films of the period more than Wesker's other, more solidly realistic 'kitchen sink' plays.

A man and woman commit themselves to spending a year together in an isolated place. We gradually learn that they are not innocent young lovers.

Both have had marriages and affairs in the past that have shaped and damaged them - she is nearly catatonic at the play's start - and this adventure is going to be an attempt to discover whether they still have the capacity to love and be happy.

And as the seasons turn, Wesker discovers that perhaps they don't. Perhapst he heartbreaks, disappointments and emotional burnt fingers of previous experience eventually make any return to the open and innocent love of the young impossible.

A more sentimental playwright might have reached for consolation in the hope that a quieter, more mature and peaceful love could compensate.

But Wesker goes no further than the acknowledgement that there can be a few moments along the way in which happiness seems briefly within grasp.

Oddly, for all its dark conclusion, this is not a gloomy play, but rather a mildly regretful one - to use the play's vocabulary, more autumnal than wintry.

One thing that makes it feel more poetic than dramatic is its reliance on language. We are repeatedly told things rather than shown them, as the man and woman try to analyse how their pasts have crippled them or explain their feelings to each other.

You sense that not much would be lost if this were a radio play or unstaged reading.

Richard Darbourne captures the hint of panic in the man's need to fill every silence and explain every emotion, while Juliet Crawford gives the woman's comparative reticence a Pintersque air of hidden depths.

James Copp's direction sometimes looks like trying too hard to give the actors something - anything - to do while they're talking, but he does appreciate the play's fragility and is careful not to get in its way.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of The Four Seasons - Arcola  Theatre 2007


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