‘Closer’ Reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by February 14, 2014

 

‘Closer’ was the third play written by English stand-up comedian and playwright, Patrick Marber, when he was 34 yrs old. ‘Closer’ won the Olivier Award for best play in England and was nominated for a Tony Award for best play in 1999.

Fresh Bred Productions are proudly – and boldly – staging this sensitive drama at Koorliny Arts Centre, 60 Sulphur Road, Kwinana nightly at 8.00 pm until Saturday 15th February. Two nights only, I saw the final rehearsal which other than a very minor technical problem at the beginning was outstanding and well worth the trip south.

 

The set design was by the show’s producer, Craig Griffen and built by Stephen McGarrity and Mark McKenzie. The author insisted that the props should be minimal and as unobtrusive as possible, hence the rear wall and the flats in the wings are of white, silky cotton. The furniture is deliberately symbolic, and the few locales are inferred rather than realistic.

The play starts with a very well designed set of titles, as on a TV programme, projected onto the white back wall. From behind the silk came beautiful, soft piano music played by the composer Koman van Sambeek and accompanied sensitively by violinist, Stephanie-Jane Lewendon-Lowe. A wonderful start to the show.

        It is the East End of London and young, shy, newspaper reporter; Dan (Brodie Masini) has just taken an unkempt young woman, Alice (Natasha Stiven) who has been hit by a taxi to the accident section of the local hospital.

      As they sit chatting in the waiting room, she learns that Dan’s mother has recently died and that he is missing her. Likewise, Alice is a waif just back from America, where she had been working as a stripper. She too has no one to call her own. Eventually the doctor (Jason Dohle) arrives and examines her leg wounds before declaring her OK. The two spend the rest of the day together.

      We jump forward a year. It is evening and at the request of his publisher, Dan is having his photo taken by professional photographer, Anna (Diana Oliver) for the cover of his first novel. As Dan plays around the web dating sites, by chance he contacts the hospital doctor, Larry, and poses as Anna.

      Will Dan’s plans strengthen his relationship with Alice, or will things go from bad to worse?

In 2004, this play was made into a film, which I felt was a disaster. The film was blatantly built around the shock factor of the sex and the foul language. The story is in fact a superbly written sad, tender love tale. The ‘shocking’, scabrous dialogue is exactly what the people would use in privacy whilst discussing their love lives. The author also places great emphasis on being true to each other, even if it hurts – although Alice finds this hard.

This is Jack McKenzie’s first major play as director, and he has shown an astounding understanding of the mood required, the subtlety of the action and avoided the blatant. Yes, there are some raunchy scenes, but the nudity is restrained and the whole sexiness built around the passionate delivery of the lines. This deep and emotional approach by the magnificent cast works perfectly.

At times two localities were being staged at the same time, with the cast intermingling – even taking each other’s drinks! But the effect was skilfully handled and worked seamlessly.

This play relies on a the pace being moderate but consistent, this was ensured by the slick work of the stage crew of Tiana Pisano, Jeanett Fernades and Adam Salathiel led by their stage manager, Joshua Webb.

Alex Coutts-Smith’s lighting was sympathetic to the mood and allowed the quality background projection to be seen and appreciated.

The usually shy Natasha must be congratulated on her bravery. Her stripper’s costume is minimal (costume design Maggie McKenzie, assisted by Eluned Manning and Karen Newman) and the actions demanded took her outside her comfort zone, but this young lady – who was in a Finley award winning show last year, has again proved her skills.

Brought up in Pitlochry, a central Scottish town that is famous for its small tourist theatres, Natasha has in her family tree, actors, writers and actor managers and so quality theatre is in the blood. A VERY special performance demonstrating Alice’s surface sexiness with a deep enigmatic undertone.

The other members of the cast completed the perfect team. The action was absolutely natural and the dialogue delivered without over dramatization. Many congratulations. For once the use of headsets was a great idea, allowing the soft intimate comments to be heard without requiring an unnatural projection.

Kwinana always seems to give the audience what they want and with true quality. This exciting production is well worth the 20-minutes journey from Perth to this comfortable theatre.