Performing Arts

The City

Presented by nowyesnow
Reviewed Thurs 13th April 2012
Martin Crimp strongly divides opinions. He has been described as everything from the latest and greatest British playwright, to a poor man’s Pinter. This play, too, has been accorded accolades by some writers and described as pretentious and self-indulgent by others. It seems that people either love or hate his work.
There is, of course, much of Harold Pinter’s influence in Crimp’s writing, along with elements of Samuel Beckett, and even Howard Barker. Right from the opening scene, where a married couple, Clair and Chris, talk at, rather than to each other, the monologues fragmented and seemingly dissipating in mid air as they fail to listen to the other’s words, we are already aware of that link to Pinter.
The play is directed by State Theatre’s Artistic Director elect, Geordie Brookman, who directed a well-received production of Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life in 2008 for that company. He brings that experience to bear on his realisation of this production.
Clair speaks of a chance meeting with man whose daughter is going to live with his sister-in-law, a nurse. The girl was taken away before he had a chance to kiss her goodbye. Chris speaks of a restructuring of the American office of the company for whom he works and the consequent threat of impending unemployment. Clair is a literary interpreter, while Chris is an office worker. The man that Clair met turns out to be Mohammed, a writer who invites her to attend an overseas conference. Chris loses his job and goes to work, after an extended period of unemployment, at a supermarket, where an old school friend is already working.
Jenny is a neighbour, a nurse on shift work, who comes to complain about the noise of their children preventing her from sleeping. In so doing she explains that her husband, a doctor, is overseas in an unnamed country where troops are reducing a city to dust, leaving none alive.
The children, however, are not in the garden at all. They appear to be locked in the playroom, and there is no sign of the key. Later, their daughter appears briefly, reciting crude Limericks. She is dressed as a nurse, wearing an identical outfit to that worn by Jenny. As the play veers from a sort of convoluted naturalism into the surreal you will just have to work out for yourself what is going on, until the final scene combines an answer with more questions. The girl returns to close the play, mangling a piece that she is learning on the piano.
Lizzy Falkland presents us with an enigmatic interpretation of Clair, detached and self-involved, seemingly little interested in Chris or his problems, beyond the extent to which they impact upon her. Falkland does a fine job of maintaining that air of disconnection between the characters, conversing but not connecting.
Chris Pitman plays Chris, handling the wide range of emotions that his character displays as his life is changed around him. He gives a good feeling of that sense of loss and lack of control that Chris encounters.
Anna Steen is Jenny, giving her character an unnerving edge, suggesting that her complaint about the noise is more like an excuse to speak to somebody and to let out her fears of what is happening to her husband. She finds no attentive ears in Clair and Chris, though, and there is an element of frustration that Steen injects into her portryal.
Matilda Bailey is quite eerie as the Girl, and there is no doubt that this emerging artist is going to be one to watch.
Victoria Lamb’s minimal set design has white panels at each side and a large mirror/window at the rear, its appearance transformed at various times by Ben Flett’s lighting. This adds to the rather disturbing atmosphere that Brookman sets up in the production, also aided by Andrew Howard’s music.
This work features four very fine actors and some incisive direction, making it well worth seeing.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide
Venue: Bakehouse Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 8pm nightly to 28 April 2012
Duration: 85min (no interval)
Tickets: Adults $20, Concession $17
Bookings: here or cash at the door on the night, subject to availability


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