Straight To the Heart**** (Arts Theatre)

Posted: October 12, 2016 in Theatre

straught-to-the-heartThis review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

There is more than enough good theatre around in London these days to satisfy enthusiasts every evening of the week, so what about popping along to Leicester Square for an additional lunchtime fix? Ken Jarorowski’s trilogy of short plays consisting of seven warm and wise monologues will make the excursion well worthwhile.

The three stories in Pulse are linked by themes of father/child relationships and connect to doctors. Charles (Alistair Brown) was stillborn, but saved by his father, who refused to accept a doctor’s hasty verdict. Now, as an adult, father and son avoid each other, Charles fearing coming out as gay to a manly Royal Marine who preaches in church at weekends. Ron (Daniel Simpson) fears for his young son, who is being bullied at school by the son of a doctor and he teaches him how to be a boxer with unforeseen consequences. Diane (Nadia Shash) has sacrificed her life to care for her father since her mother left the family when she was 11 and now she is told that his degenerating heart condition could mean that the end is near.

One to the Head One to the Heart is the darkest of the three plays. Aaron (Simpson) and Beth (Shash) are an American married couple who, having combatted infertility problems, now have a severely disabled daughter. They each tell their stories – he is a tough guy who has fought his way up to become a college professor; she is a former nurse who has never done anything bad in her life, but senses that this must change. This moving little play is marked by deeply satisfying touches of irony.

The Truth Tellers is lighter, introducing us to Annie (Shash) and Larry (Brown) both single and passing their prime. They go reluctantly to a club one evening and fall upon each other (literally) but they fill their conversation with dishonesties which threaten to undermine their developing mutual attraction. He is a bookkeeper who pretends to be a CEO, she is an office clerk pretending to be a hedge fund manager. Annie has been advised “every nice guy in the world is either gay, taken or weird” and now, as both tell lies to each other and the truth to the audience, she just hopes that Larry is weird.

Director Alex Dmitriev cuts back the staging in a bare studio space to absolute basics – up to three actors standing on stage, with spotlights picking them out when it is their turn to speak. The plays represent exemplary, concise short storytelling and they are performed to perfection. Running at around 65 minutes overall, the plays may not fit perfectly into a lunch hour, but they are well worth a late return to work. And perhaps it would be wise to add on another five minutes to dab away a tear or two.

Performance date: 11 October 2016


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