Archive for February, 2016

4000 Days** (Park Theatre)

Posted: February 3, 2016 in Theatre

4000 days

The common desire to cut out mistakes in our past lives and go back to do things again only better, lies at the heart of Peter Quilter’s new light drama. Michael (Alistair McGowan) is presented with the opportunity to do exactly that when an accident sends him into a coma and, when he awakens, he finds that the last 11 years of his life have been erased from his memory, including the entire duration of his decade-long relationship with Paul (Daniel Weyman). Should the couple reconstruct their relationship? Or should they acknowledge the imperfections of a partnership in which each of them had changed the other and not for the better? There are interesting ideas to explore here and it is possible to see the potential for a very amusing romantic comedy, although a great deal more humour would be needed than is here now. One of the play’s chief problems is the character of Carol, Michael’s chain smoking mother; although played splendidly by Maggie Ollerenshaw, she is the familiar mother-in-law figure and her repeated battles with Paul for Michael’s affections are tiresomely stereotypical. This sub-plot takes up far too much time that could have been used to go deeper into the relationship between the two men and to find amusement from the social changes that have taken place over the last 11 years. As it is, Quilter gives us a soufflé of a play, skimming over the surface of its themes and opting for contrived and unconvincing sentimentality over insight. McGowan has his moments as the frustrated and increasingly camp amnesiac, but Weyman is more endearing as the rejected Paul, constantly apologising for his own dullness. Director Matt Aston’s production is competent if occasionally pedestrian and Rebecca Brower’s hospital room set is austere, but ideally suited to the Park’s thrust stage. In all, this is a warm and mildly entertaining show for a Winter evening, but it is one that may be best enjoyed with the brain in stand-by mode.

Performance date: 2 February 2016

Pink Mist**** (Bush Theatre)

Posted: February 3, 2016 in Theatre

Pink-Mist-at-Bristol-Old-Vic.-Photo-by-Mark-Douet-I80A4628-2000x1333

A feeling of helplessness comes from reading or hearing a modern war poem. It is a feeling that nothing at all has changed in the century since Wilfred Owen. Substitute the arid terrain of Asia for the trenches of Northern Europe and we still have young working class men (women too, but not included here) being lured away from drab lives by the bait of adventure and then maimed or slaughtered at the behest of politicians and generals. Told through narration and movement, this transfer from the Bristol Old Vic follows three soldiers (Phil Dunster, Peter Edwards and Alex Stedman) from enlistment through the era of the Blair wars and on to seemingly inevitable conclusions. Their women (Rebecca Hamilton, Rebecca Killick and Zara Ramm) suffer at home. Writer Owen Sheers’ work has an epic sweep, as if attempting to condense a decade of horrific news stories into under two hours, and there are times when this production buckles under the strain. The volume of material and the structure of the piece work against full development of storylines or characters, but, collectively, these snapshots of doomed lives are projected with overwhelming visceral force. The performances are magnificent and the production on a square open platform, directed with flair and imagination by John Retallack and George Mann, provides the flowing movement to strengthen the power of Sheers’ words. At the end, the audience feels pummelled, drained of emotion and very, very angry at the shocking waste of war.

Performance date: 29 January 2016

Photo: Mark Douet