Closer

Mon 7th – Tue 8th November 2011

reviews

Natasha Tabani

at 07:33 on 8th Nov 2011

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Patrick Marber’s Closer is a simultaneously scathing and sympathetic insight into the complications of love, lust and relationships. Closer is a particularly difficult play to pull off well because it centres exclusively around the dialogue of the four main characters. Within this dialogue is contained more or less the full spectrum of emotions and a range of intricate and subtle exchanges of wit, concealment and deceit. Each character and situation hinges on the tension between love and loss, between bliss (or ‘Paradise’, as it’s referred to in the play) and despair.

This production of the play manages to establish from the offset four strong characters, each with their own distinct quirks and dispositions. Alice (Cesca Clayton) quickly distinguishes herself as the wild, impulsive girl that opposes Anna (Emily Thompson), the elegant and sophisticated photographer, and both are equally endearing in entirely opposite ways. Larry (Misha Vertkin) also complements Dan (Jack Fayter) as the honest but tormented dermatologist against the fickle and sentimental journalist. The interaction between these characters, and their constantly shifting relationships with one another is well executed. The consistency of the performances are solid throughout, but there are a few instances where we are reminded that it is a student production. Occasionally, during the intensely emotional scenes which deal with serious separations and betrayals, the actors appear to revert to expressions of anger, sadness and so on which perhaps do not fully reflect and acknowledge the complexities of their character.

The darker scenes are interposed with moments of humor and wit. These provide light counterparts to the otherwise intense subject matter and lift the tone of the piece, placing it somewhere within the genre of a modern day tragicomedy. The comedic and ‘tragic’ scenes are both credible and well orchestrated, and the transitions between the two always run smoothly. There are no scenes which appear redundant, and each word of dialogue feels significant, potentially laden with multiple or fictitious meanings.

The play commences with an indie-grunge music vibe, including the likes of Nirvana and Joy Division, then fades out to a more minimalist, instrumental Steve Reich-esque score during scene changes. This complements the essence and context of the play, though there are times where I feel the music could have been taken further and perhaps bled into the scenes themselves, acting as barely audible but atmosphere-enhancing soundscape. Though the lack of background noise during the scenes allows the audience to focus in even further on the dialogue, it does also perhaps leave some scenes feeling a little too sparse.

Overall, this production of Closer succeeds in creating an all-round entertaining and thought-provoking spectacle, demonstrating captivating and complex character interrelationships. It creates a delicate equilibrium between positive and negative situations, dealing equally well with both scenes of great honesty and intimacy and those of lust, sexuality and manipulation. It is definitely worth seeing. I really enjoyed it!

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Ottilie Wilford

at 08:35 on 8th Nov 2011

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Having seen the film adaptation of Closer I was quite frankly nervous when the lights went down in this production. The film’s raw, explicit scenes between lovers were uncomfortable enough to watch when played by Oscar winning actors, so I was dreading the prospect of students fumbling their way through through this complex and penetrating exploration of two relationships that become fatally entwined.

However immediately I knew I was in safe territory. What came across as stilted and cliched dialogue in the film was far more convincing as Patrick Marber had intended it, on stage. The power of the script would of course not be done justice were it not for a strong cast; special mention should go to Mischa Vertkin, whose portrayal of Larry the smug, foolish doctor was so unaffected and watchable that I often found myself looking forward to his next appearance. The rest of the cast were equally absorbing. Cesca Clayton managed the difficult task of understanding Alice’s daring but fragile and ultimately elusive identity whilst Emily Thompson and Jack Fayter successfully conveyed the subtleties in their complicated and very flawed characters. The intelligent direction aided their credibility. Much attention is paid to body language whether it be Alice seductively flaunting her limbs or Larry sitting with his legs apart to assert his masculinity. Most importantly though, a play revolving around intense, one-on-one relationships requires chemistry and cohesiveness within the cast, something the actors succeeded at. They were impressively in tune with one another and only occasionally were their words and gestures slightly out of sync.

The emotional turbulence of their love lives were assisted by the skilful staging. Three chairs reside in centre stage for most of the play which tend to act as some sort of visual indicator as to the status of their relationships; if there is an empty chair in between them then there is obviously some type of inner distance. Another effective visual aspect is the backdrop, a wall covered with Anna’s photographs of strangers, a suggestion that these the people have been captured at their core, untainted by the self-deception and delusion that plagues the characters. Therefore it acts as a constant reminder of a dilemma that lies at the heart of the play: to what extent are these four people exposed by love?

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