Originally written for and published by The Public Reviews
Essentially two plays with a London commonality, these works by the prolific writer Simon Stephens make a powerful impact but provide very different theatrical experiences.
T5 opens on a lone woman (Abby Ford) in a hotel room, we watch as she acts out the innermost thoughts which are transmitted to us through a headset. Her movements as unpredictable as her quickly shifting thoughts, we sift through the random snippets to piece together why and how she is here. Witness to a fatal crime, but choosing not to intervene, her re-assessment of her life and her attempt to leave it, and London behind, seemingly the consequence of a guilt she can’t shake.
While the headset transports us into the mind of the woman, the piece lacks the impact that directly addressing an audience has. Ford’s movements are too stylised to be believable and the piece feels more like a flight of fancy than a genuine journey into the mind of a troubled soul.
The plays transition from one to another in the time it takes the audience to remove their headsets and the stage crew to quickly strip the set back to its bare bones.
Actor Cary Crankson steps out and immediately begins to engage with the audience in the fully lit auditorium. Quickly drawing us in, he shares some amusing and well told anecdotes about his family, his job and the recent family holiday to visit his father-in-law in France. Despite the jovial banter there is a prevailing sense of unease throughout the monologue. Writer Stephens has an ear for narrative and tantalises us in the method of the storytelling, we watch, amused, engaged, but unsettled, and wait for the killer blow to be delivered, when the moment arrives its power has all the more impact. It is skilfully done, in the midst of the amiable chat it comes, in a few words, the gut-wrenching heart of the tale.
At only half an hour in length, Sea Wall, packs an emotional punch and Crankson’s naturalistic delivery shows that the most truly powerful theatre comes from the ability of the actor to spellbind an audience with simple storytelling.
Previously stand alone plays, the two work well staged as successive monologues providing an interesting theatrical contrast to one another, but it is the combination of Sea Wall and Crankson who are the stand-outs of the evening.
Runs until: 17 November