The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. And we take the opportunity to explore
other vintage productions preserved online. Until things return to
normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Folio Theatre Spring 2022
one-hour play, staged by Folio Theatre and English Touring Theatre in
2016, is now available online.
is a puzzle play that withholds vital information from us until the end,
but it may be too clever for its own good.
the time all – or at least most – is revealed, the play's subject, which
is legitimately serious and important, can't help feeling a little
anticlimactic. There is so much unnecessary mystification that what
should be an emotionally resonant reassessment of all that came before
may seem hardly worth the effort.
play is structured on three separate plot lines. In the central action a
young woman who has decided to take up fishing picks a riverside spot
that a curmudgeonly older man considers his private territory.
the rules of playwriting require, the odd couple move inevitably from
animosity through uneasy truce to a friendship that helps both through
their separate emotional journeys.
scenes are punctuated by cutaways to a young man in his kitchen trying
to apologise for his behaviour to his off-camera ex, and by a third set
of scenes in which two strangers repeatedly meet and annoy each other.
three lines seem to have no plot or thematic connection to each other
until the final moments, when very basic facts – like who is who and
where they stand chronologically – are revealed and the story can be
(mostly) fit together.
of this structure is quite ingenious, but to the extent that the
audience is engaged in trying to piece it together, the play's true
subject – the Why of it all – gets pushed aside.
director Alfred Hitchcock used to say that what he called the
'McGuffin,' the thing the characters were fighting over, was less
important than the fact that they were fighting over it. In Metcalf's
play, trying to figure out what the three plot lines have in common
outweighs the meaningfulness of the answer.
online version benefits from being shot on location, with the central
scenes on a real riverbank.
But Lizzie Stables (woman), Matt Tait (younger man) and Michael Palmer (older man) – the last two also double as the pair in the third story line – fight valiantly to create characters when so much about them is withheld from us, and to make us care when puzzle-solving has displaced emotional involvement.
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