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Shopping and F**king: Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

October 19, 2016

(seen at the afternoon performance on 15th October 2016).

This production made just one fatal error. It decided to sell one of those combined “programme and script” books, in place of the simple programme. That allowed me (who missed the play first time around) to examine it properly after the show…

… and discover, to my frank astonishment, that there was a far deeper, more coherent and cohesive play in that book than managed to reach the stage.

That said, there is plenty to like. Sophie Wu has proven her worth after her early promise in “Table” at the National Theatre, becoming a high-energy yet always perfectly controlled young actor to watch. Lovely work too from Sam Spruell as addict Mark and Alex Arnold as Robbie.

Existing in a world half 1990s – the script; half ambiguously later – the staging using plenty of “green screen” video camera work which wouldn’t have been prevalent at the time; and, oddly almost 80s video and captioning, the production rather over-reaches.

Catalyst Brian is played by the female Robin Soans, lending an early scene a lesbian feeling which almost dilutes the male gay atmosphere too far. Worse, playing a “job interview” as a “lecture / pupil” scene utterly distorts the meaning and made it incredibly hard to follow the beginning of the major plot theme.

Other switches in the text, and an utterly incomprehensible “audience participation” gambit compound the feeling that Sean Holmes should have trusted the original and kept it considerably more intimate in both feel and visual look. It really is about young energy, and there is plenty of it, if only he would let it carry the evening.

Had there been an effort to harness words and text to a something set completely in its period context, the play would have been revealed as a perfect time-capsule of both the mid-1990s and indeed mid 1990s theatre. Everything had become about money, was for sale, yet we hadn’t quite developed the means of instant trade and riches the story hinted at.

Left alone, Ravenhill’s writing would have been applauded last weekend for prescience and accuracy. Swamped by a wealth not yet seen at the time of writing, the audience had to work unnecessarily hard to dig for that clever message.

Ultimately still an interesting play, but one for directors to handle with greater caution, I feel.


One Comment
  1. Clive permalink
    October 20, 2016 3:49 am

    Interesting. I saw it but also missed it the first time around and haven’t read it. Perhaps I’ll have to rectify the latter.

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