Frogme Theatre Company presents the UK Premiere of
Photo by Tina Engstrom
by Jon Fosse
Directed by Lars Harald Gathe
Producer: Berislav Juraic
Designer: Christopher Faulds
Lighting Designer: Chris Randall
26 Aug -12 Sept
A review by James Buxton for EXTRA! EXTRA!
Tucked away in a quiet side street just off Oxford Street, Theatre Delicatessen is low key fringe theatre with a friendly atmosphere. The theatre is above the bar and is reached by climbing the fire exit steps outside, which adds a subtle sense of adventure to the experience, all in keeping with the makeshift, low budget appeal of the venue.
Visits is a play by the celebrated contemporary Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse. It centres around a single mother (Nikki Squire) who lives with her melancholy daughter (Ami Sayers). Her son, (Ben Hale) who has moved out, visits them occasionally. However, when he discovers that his mother's boyfriend (Cornelius Garret) may have taken advantage of his sister, he attempts to confront him. Yet, as he struggles to discover the truth, his sister gradually falls deeper into a depression while his mother becomes more dependent on her new man.
Set in the front room of their flat, the audience sit on three sides of the tarnished wooden floor. Two chairs, one with a large drum for a seat are arranged on either side of a coffee table. The coffee table is inventively made out of half a door with coat hook protruding out of its centre. Faulds design subverts everyday furniture by combining objects together in an unusual fashion, to increase our awareness of them. At the back of the stage there is a raised section with a door to the daughter's bedroom while a sheet of corrugated Perspex provides the back drop where silhouettes of the actors ominously lurk at moments throughout the play. The lights, with their bare filaments evoke a dilapidated atmosphere as they are dimmed in between acts. During these moments, the haunting piano of Eric Satie's Gnossienne N°1 begins to play, arousing poignant emotions.
Nikki Squire in a black dress plays the bubbly Mother with a cheerfully buoyant disposition, unable to recognize the severity of her daughter's depression. Despite her attempts at discussion with her daughter, the reasons for her unhappiness and her systematic truancy from school, she is incredibly short sighted and grows more dependent on her boyfriend to support her. Squire is convincing as the mother and performs believably as a woman who is completely out of touch with her daughter, but desperate for affection from her man.
Ami Sayers as the Girl has a look of perpetual melancholy as she shuffles about the stage. She shyly stands in her pyjamas, glumly staring at the floor, avoiding eye contact, speaking quickly and quietly. Sayers sad eyes reveal a timorous quality as she dwells in her depression. Her introverted body language of hunched shoulders and crossed arms harbour a fearful sense of physical and social contact. Sayers is sadness embodied and her performance is deeply affecting.
The Brother, Ben Hale, puts on a moving performance as the noble, big brother who struggles to support his sister. In the most powerful scene of the play, he displays great nervous energy as he paces about the stage interrogating his mother's boyfriend about his life, in a strong East London accent. Yet Fosse never allows him to confront him directly with the question of rape, instead he skirts around the issue, dropping loaded suggestions and repeating himself. He even attempts to provide him with possible excuses that could mitigate his actions but his burning frustration gets the better of him as he turns to violence. Hale's performance in this scene creates a tension that is tremendously gripping as he is plagued by the horror of what this man may have down to his sister.
Cornelius Garret plays the Man. Garret appears a charmer when wooing Squire, but there is a creepy quality to his presence as he swans about their home. Garret's smiles also seem somewhat false. His calm and collected nature in the scene where the son interrogates him is questionable for he appears to have no knowledge of what Hale is getting at and plays the victim with innocent incredulity. Fosse creates an intriguing mystery, as it is left to the audience to decide for themselves if he is capable of committing such a heinous crime.
Visits is an enigmatic, dark play which remains unresolved. Fosse shows how powerful an impact a stranger can have on a family, for the Mother is so desperate for the Man's affection that she overlooks her own daughter's awful despair. It is interesting to note that Fosse as a Norwegian playwright shows in the Brother the same difficulties of dealing with the sensitive issue of rape directly that we in England share, perhaps a hangover of Protestantism and its system of repression that has shaped European identity.
Photo by Tina Engstrom
3-4 Picton Place
London, W1U 1BJ
26th August to 12th September at 19.30 (except Mondays).
Full tickets are priced at £10. Concessions are priced at £9.
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