‘Closer’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by June 11, 2016

‘Closer’ is the third play by English playwright, Patrick Marber. It is an elegantly structured, adult melodrama. Whilst having hints of comedy, it has a dark nuance of tension and antagonism. The play premiered in London in 1997, with Marber’s film adaption being produced in 2004.

This almost three-hour production can be seen at the Old Mill Theatre, Corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth each Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8.00 pm, until Saturday 25th June. There is a Sunday matinée at 2.00 pm on the 12th and 19th June.

 

It is London, near Black Friar’s Bridge, in the 1990s.

Trevor Dhu and Jo Little’s set design is simple, comprising at the rear of the stage a central archway, flanked by white drapes. Above the arch is a projection screen (video effects Vanessa Gudgeon and Duncan Shaw). On each side of the side stage is a rotating dais, with a white outer wall, and on the other side, a room (built by Trevor Dhu, Lloyd Hamer, Phil Barnett). The numerous props were supplied by Paul Bray and Rex Gray.

Sadly, the scene changes were all calamities, culminating in a final disaster.

The projection screen collapsed, a curtain fell, the rotating stages took ages to align – accuracy wasn’t really that necessary. The decent sized crew did not enter the stage until the cast had left, and several seconds had passed. The instant the lights go off, everyone should be there, going immediately to their specific job. Good planning is essential. Walk on, place a prop, grab another, walk off. Don’t stand in the dark looking to see what requires attention, or what others are doing.

Then, don’t hide behind the back drapes discussing the disaster during the play – the audience can hear. You really owe it to these superb actors who have built up the tension and mood, not to ruin it. Sorry, but there was no easy way of putting this.

 

        Dan (Jeff Watkins) has been in a relationship for some time, but has never really outgrown the ‘Mummy’s Boy’ syndrome. He works as a reporter in Fleet Street, writing obituaries. One day, as he leaves the office, he manages to grab a hippy looking girl and pull her out of the path of a taxi. The girl, Alice (Georgina Hamer), is part-time stripper and a lonely streetwise waif. Alice’s leg has a minor gash, so Dan suggests it is checked. He takes Alice to hospital, where she flirts with him.

      A disinterested doctor, dermatologist Larry (Dylan Sercombe) passes the waiting room, but on seeing attractive Alice returns to check her wounds. Alice and Dan meet regularly, and soon Alice feels loved and wanted for the first time in her life, and Daniel feels needed.

      A year later, Dan has had a book accepted for publication and professional photographer, Anna (Anna Head), is taking a picture for the book’s jacket. Dan asks to see Anna again, but Alice overhears. Practically in tears at Dan’s duplicity, Alice then insists that Anna takes a picture of her. This photo ends up on the wall of a museum. One day, whilst visiting the art gallery, Larry sees Alice looking at her portrait. They chat and recall the hospital incident. They continue meeting.

      Soon the four friends share love, tensions and heartbreak.

 

John Woolrych’s superior lighting design was smoothly operated by Callum Cook. The wonderful selection of music and sound effects were operated by Vanessa Gudgeon. Wearing some of Jenny Prosser and Sue Sator’s colourful and sexy costumes, Georgina learned Alice’s stripping routine from choreographer, Claudia Cirillo.

Director, Trevor Dhu is a much admired director, who never avoids a challenge. The play ‘Closer’ is particularly difficult for the director and exceptionally demanding for the cast. Jeff, Anna and Dylan have many years of quality dramatic productions under their wings, but although Georgina has risen to the highest heights as a singer, she had never before had a dramatic role. The role of Alice is extremely challenging, possibility one of the most difficult in modern theatre, so I have to admit I was worried about a newcomer’s ability to do justice to the part. All of the characters had to show extreme levels of passion, hate, pathos and humour, combined with good chemistry and interaction. I need have had no doubts, Georgina was magnificent, and who along with her fellows gave us a brilliant interpretation of this play.

A first class version of the lives and loves of four people. Many congratulations.