Unity Theatre, Liverpool
September 20, 2013
Author: Danny Whitehead
Director: Dan Horrigan
Cast: James Spofforth, Esther Dix, Lee Burnitt
Running Time: 1 hour
Let’s get this straight. The Liverpool Write Now festival is an important, effervescent and necessary addition to the city’s arts calendar that provides a vital showcase for not only new playwrights, but also actors, directors, stage managers, choreographers and designers who may or may not otherwise find it difficult to find the opportunity to express their talents which may well be in the shadow of other more established stars.
Three such talents are the actors involved here, who each strip the beautifully painted themes of love, forgiveness, rage and loss extraordinarily well.
Deborah and Ben are newlyweds on honeymoon in an expensive hotel paid for by the groom’s parents. All is well until Ben returns to find his wife distraught, having been confronted by her ex-lover, Raymond, whilst he has been out running.
What transpires are a series of revelations that are as hypnotic as they are dark, with James Spofforth’s Raymond switch moods from rage to compassion so smoothly the audience are one moment sympathising with him completely, whilst the next they are urging him leave the woman alone. An astonishing performance, Spofforth is an actor who is bizarrely underused and hopefully the power of this piece – and his performance – will secure roles with greater regularity in future.
Superb too is Esther Rix as the torn Deborah, whose angst and want and desperate desire to forget the past and hold onto a future that she has so recently been given seeps from every pore, vowel and nuance she so deftly delivers.
Lee Burnitt’s Ben, a character who is so laid back he may well be able to lie down through out, delivers such an emotionally charged presentation that is riddled with hurt and confusion it is all but impossible not empathise with his position and Burnitt exemplifies the confusion and anger Ben feels without ever over-egging the pudding, which in itself is admirable given the roller-coaster style feelings Ben is subjected to.
If there are qualms they lie in the staging. For such a high class hotel room, surely a little more than a battered table, a moth eaten chair and a bed covered in a tatty sheet might add more to the sense of place and, thus, the atmosphere. There is also the fact that Scene two between Deb and Ben is just a little overwritten and could lose a good five minutes just to tighten the screw of the situation even more.
With these points made, however, Danny Whitehead and Dan Horrigan have created an original, thought-proving piece of theatre that would make an ideal production on Sky Arts’ Playhouse Presents, as well any Radio 4 afternoon play.
Compelling stuff indeed.