Theatre Review
 

 

 

Home Reviewers

 

 

 

Lucid Muse presents

 

DAMAGES

 

 

Writer: Steve Thompson

Director: Benet Catty

Stage Manager: Roxanne Kamberos

 

Old Red Lion Theatre

 

7 – 25 July 2009

 

 

 

A review by Jafar Iqbal for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

The job of a theatre reviewer is pretty simple. You go and see a play, note down the positives, keep an eye out for the negatives, and jot it all down into one concise, user-friendly piece of text. It is that whole idea of balance that is crucial. The theatregoer needs to know why they should go, but they (and the producers themselves) need to be told how and where work may be required. Everybody is given constructive feedback, and everybody gets their much-needed balanced opinion.

Unfortunately though, that won’t be happening today.

It’s not because of my personal desire to rebel everything that is true and good (the medication helps with that). No, it’s for the pure and simple fact that it wasn’t possible to give a balanced view this time round. The reason is clear – I bore witness to a faultless show.

The show in question is Damages, Steve Thompson’s scathing and satirical look at the seedy and shameless world of newspaper journalism. Playing out in real time, the production follows four people in two hours of their lives, as the breasts of a children’s TV presenter cause dissention amongst the ranks. Whether the news item should be published on the front page of tomorrow’s paper leads to hilarious yet eye-opening explorations of morality, loyalty, love and the dog-eat-dog world of print journalism, with some exciting twists along the way.

More so than anything else, it is the script that leaves the most powerful impression. The play shifts effortlessly between witty, sarcastic humour and gritty drama, clever one-liners and recurring jokes slipped in at seemingly perfect points. Having first been performed in 2004, and since been adapted for the BBC, the play will inevitably have gone through changes. If what we see on stage today is that final product, then it is definitely a job well done, as not a single part of that script needs to be changed.

However, it takes a good cast to give a good script the plaudits it deserves and, fortunately, the four actors do not disappoint. Each character is excellently crafted and well defined, with their personal brand of humour meshing with the others’ beautifully. Robert Rowe is by far the highlight of the play. His turn as grumpy old Howard is superb, every little facial gesture and cynical comment delivered with utmost perfection. The rest of the cast aren’t far away either. Joanna Bell, as Abigail, matches Rowe in her powerful dialogue delivery; but where Howard is just grumpy, there is a hint of malice in Abigail’s interaction with the other characters. Simeon Perlin (Bas) and Tom Carter (Lister) make up the rest of the cast; Lister is the man you hate to love, playing the typical seedy journalist with brilliance, while Perlin has that difficult role of being the straight man and does it with confidence and success.

Technically, the play is also a rousing achievement. This is not a production where the audience has to imagine anything – no symbolism or one prop doubling up as two. We are inside an office, and it is an office. Desks are cluttered with paper, stationary, laptops and food; a blackboard is stuck to the wall, and a jug of water rests on a small coffee table. With no breaks in time (other than the interval), there are also no scene changes, the play flowing beautifully. The use of sound and lighting is also minimal, used only when the curtain comes down. All the effort has been made to create a sense of realism, making it feel like a television drama, and praise for that has to go to director Benet Catty.

Now, most reviews would end with a final verdict of the play and that all-important ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ from the writer, and it is only fair that that some norms are stuck to. In all fairness, though, it is quite clear what this summary would be. Having the opportunity to watch this play and not doing so would be a massive disappointment; from the acting to the razor-sharp script and everything in between, the production is a joy to watch. Go and see it.

 

 

Tuesday – Saturday 8pm / Sunday 5pm

 

£13 (£11 concessions)

Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London, EC1V 4NJ

http://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk

 

Box Office: 020 7837 7816

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved

 

 

 

Home Reviewers