London Irish Productions
Crescent Arts Centre Belfast
9th August to 13th August 2016 @ 745pm
Modern British playwright Patrick Marber (1967) presents the audience with four complex characters, and through witty dialogue and rising tensions, he explores the human afflictions of love, jealousy, and loss in his 1997 play, Closer.
Writer Dan meets Alice when she is knocked down by a car on her way home from a night of clubbing, and a relationship develops between them. However contentment is not on the cards – Dan falls for photographer Anna who is taking his picture for a book jacket, but she rebuffs him. In an act of prankishness, Dan chats up dermatologist Larry online, in the persona of Anna, and arranges to meet him at London Zoo – where Dan knows Anna will be. Against the odds, from this blind date a relationship develops between Anna and Larry. But over the course of the ensuing scenes, the couples fall out, cheat and make up again. In the end, Alice dies, knocked down by a car. Larry and Anna split up – but the three remaining characters manage to find a modicum of resolution in their loves.
The play is well handled by all four actors, though the women stand out. Gemma Leader as Anna is excellent, her characterisation grave and thoughtful and sympathetic, while Katriona Perrett is compelling and credible as the wounded Alice, physically dynamic yet possessed of neediness. Lee Thomas, playing Larry as well as directing give a good account of the character, while Jonathan Blakely carries off the part of self-deluding Dan with a bluff restlessness.
Director Lee Thomas and producer Steve Graham clearly have an interest in complex characters and tense interpersonal drama, and the play is a fine choice for London Irish as an inaugural production, and a good fit for the Crescent Arts Centre here in Belfast.
The black box staging in the Centre’s Cube space seems to have allowed Thomas the chance to pull back from over-complicated staging – the play’s action takes place in a variety of locations – and to take a more minimalistic approach. This allows us to focus on the characters and their witty dialogue.
As Production/ Stage Manager, Robbie Olden took simple scene changes and synchronised the movements of the actors to give the production an even more clean cut look.
Closer‘s opening night can be accounted a success – the audience, unfortunately not a full house, alternately laughing at the bleak comedy and on the edge of their seats with knife-edge tension throughout, from start to finish.
Art Mac Cláir