The upstairs night club area of Ten Feet Tall, Cardiff is not somewhere I expected to be reviewing a play. What the audience will find when walking into this space is a few chairs gathered round a small stage. On this sits a couch facing conveniently towards us, with massive speakers either side of it, and they in turn are adorned with packing boxes.
Axon Theatre present David Greig’s brief duologue (approximately 40 minutes long) with a grubbiness that you soon realize is entirely apt and right for the piece. All the way through we can hear street noise, the pub downstairs, the movements of the world beyond the four walls around us. The isolation and loneliness of the situation about to be played out in front is heightened by this aural backdrop.
This one act play, from esteemed Scottish playwright David Greig (Stalinland; The Events), brings together two unlikely characters, the extroverted Lisa (Sarah Bennington) and the tragically and deliberately insular Sean (Tom Hurley). It transpires that they met at a bar when Lisa was drawn to the mysterious, and consequently alluring, Sean. We first meet the pair when Sean brings Lisa back to his flat.
Lisa begins to tell Sean many things about herself, all of which she attributes to ‘being Norwegian’. It is increasingly obvious that Sean does not want to divulge at the same velocity as Lisa. It becomes clear that Sean is hiding some, as he eventually puts it, ‘grimey stuff’ from his past, which we never find out the full nature of. This, in the end, does not matter. As is typical of Greig’s plays, what matters is the connection between people; a kind of connection that is perhaps something that cannot be articulated.
Tom Hurley plays Sean’s wide eyed benevolence through to his, equally wide-eyed, intensity brilliantly. His awkward portrayal was both endearing and suspect, whilst being timed to comedic perfection. Sarah Bennington was fantastic as Lisa. She knew exactly how to react off Sean’s slippery front, and performed her ‘Norwegian’ idiosyncrasies wonderfully.
There was for a very short time at the start where the outside noise took over the actors’ voices but the performers quickly found their volume and it was plain sailing from there. A play like this needs a gentle director, as not to push it towards any ‘great’ theatrical device, and I think Peter Scott has certainly met this challenge. This performance, despite it’s brevity, was a gem. All my trepidations of watching this in a place that I wouldn’t normally associate with theatre or performance (or even an audible conversation!) were completely dashed.
A great evening’s entertainment.