Theatre review: Troubled love is played out in CloserBy Caroline Cook
April 13, 2012
No matter how old you get love is always a complicated theme.
Middle aged balding poets have struggled to define it, greying scholars have read hundreds of books about it and old romantics have died without quite being able to say what it is.
So performing a play which dissects love with a cast and crew that has an average age of 18 is no mean feat.
But although audiences may have preconceived ideas about what such a young company can say about love, it is about 10 minutes into FreeRange’s Closer that age becomes just a number.
Patrick Marber’s witty script is played out convincingly by the four lead actors who manage to translate each character’s desires and flaws effortlessly.
Alice (Lucille Balinska) is sassy and scornful, hauntingly vulnerable but innately angry, while Larry, played with a comic edge by Jacob Jewitt-Jalland is both clumsy and amusing in his desires.
The object of Larry’s affections is Anna (Charlotte Crane) who is cool and unapproachable, and Alice is in love with Dan, played by Matthew Hopkinson.
While the cast are all captivating in their different roles and the way their characters intermingle with one another, Hopkinson is the leading talent presenting Dan with an emotional ferocity, a little ahead of the others.
The play is all about love, sex, lies and betrayal and Marber has built a story based as much on what is screamed from one couple during arguments, to what is not said, in the longing looks and close positioning of bodies.
The intimacy of the studio theatre at South Hill Park is ideal for a play like Closer as the sexual tensions, and awkwardness of troubled relationships is magnified in the small performance space.
FreeRange have chosen a minimal prop-based set, which allows the relationships to take centre stage, but the production still manages to take its audience to key locations like the famous Postman’s Park, where plaques line the walls telling the story of those who have lost their lives trying to save others.
While there is a troubled, grubby edge to the story (after all it is a play about love), with sex laid bare and expletives aplenty, Marber also manages to throw in glimpses of humour, largely provided by Jewitt-Jalland who would flourish in a comedy role in the future.
In the online chat scene with Dan the pair create an amusing, and slightly sordid scenario, which is cleverly done with a screen on stage, although it could do with a bigger font or better lighting to help the audience.
But stagecraft aside it is the relationships on the stage that are the meat of the play and the interactions between each couple expose love in all its raw, bitter glory.
They may be young but FreeRange perform Closer with an intensity many mature casts would struggle to manage and after all, it’s not a play about numbers, it’s about love – whatever that might be.
- Closer is at South Hill Park tonight at 7.30pm and tomorrow at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are £12 or £10 for concessions. To book call (01344) 484 123 or visit www.southhillpark.org.uk.