Four Minutes, Twelve Seconds*** (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs)

Posted: October 6, 2014 in Theatre

4 minsJames Fritz’ new one-act play unfolds like a detective story, making it difficult to elaborate too much on the plot details. Suffice to say that the title relates to the duration of an intimate film clip involving two teenagers, which goes viral on social networks. The pair themselves are almost incidental to the story – 17-year-old Jack never appears and his (now ex) girlfriend Cara (Ria Zmitrowsicz) turns up in just a few short scenes. This is a play about the dilemmas of parenting in the age of the internet, focussing on Jack’s pushy mother Di (Kate Maravan) and his “boys will be boys” father David (Jonathan McGuinness). Fritz examines clashes between family devotion, social responsibility and ethics in the role of parenting, whilst throwing in a discussion on the dividing line between consensual sex and rape. The play is structured as a succession of short scenes, all involving no more than two characters (predominantly Di and David) and Anna Ledwich’s stripped down production, with the audience seated on either side of an oblong stage, always holds the attention. Two very strong central performances from Maravan and McGuinness also help to keep us gripped, but the characters’ words and deeds stretch the boundaries of credibility and lead us to question whether the play’s whole central premise is fundamentally flawed. Worse still, as the plot becomes progressively less believable in the later stages, so do the characters, leaving us not really caring too much for them or about them. As a result, this play is always interesting, but rarely moving.

Performance date: 6 October 2014

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