by Patrick Marber

Directed by Allan Hart

November 16th - 23rd, 2002

The Tower Theatre performing at the Tower Theatre, Canonbury


Cast List

Alice, a girl from the town : Meg Meagher
Dan, a man from the suburbs : Stephen Armstrong
Larry, a man from the city : Ian Chaplain
Anna, a woman from the country : Janet South


Production Team

Director : Allan Hart
Set Designer : Rebecca Vincent
Lighting Designer : Nick Insley
Costume Designer : Linda Stewart-Birch
Sound Designer : Simon Humphries
Powerpoint Designer : Gail Willis

Stage Manager : Rachel Hindley, Rachel Lacaille
ASMs : Steven Hyndman, Terry Baker-Self, Annie O'Donnell, Michelle Nelson, Lesley Scarth, Sam Rinsler
Lighting operators : Ana Castro, Rachel Hindley
Sound operators : Peta Barker, Michael Allaway
Powerpoint operator : Rebecca Vincent
Construction manager : Terry Mathews
Set construction : John Morton, John Feather, John Sole, Lea Tunesi, Keith Syrett, Robert Myer, Martin Leyton, Laurence Tuerk and members of the cast & crew

Review by Marion Cotter

Marion Cotter is the publisher of Room for Romance, the new 120-page guide to Britain's most romantic hotels. (Freeway Media, £10.95). She claims it would make the perfect Christmas stocking filler!

Despite its cosy title, Patrick Marber's Closer is not a play likely to make you feel warm and fuzzy. On the contrary, it is designed to shock. And with a feelgood factor of zero, it makes distinctly uncomfortable viewing. First staged at the National Theatre, Closer takes a cutting look at love, desire, cruelty and sexual jealousy. There's no soft focus lens here as the playwright strips away any vestige of sentimentality, exposing the emotions of his four characters as if beneath harsh fluorescent strip lights.

This seemingly urbane and streetwise '90s foursome hide raw emotional wounds, and he pitilessly exposes all the squalor and sordid depths of human relationships with a barbed pen. It's a dog eat dog world of desire, possession, fickleness and hurt down there. Marber's language pulls no punches, and we're not talking the odd four-letter word either. With its almost monosyllabic script - few speeches are longer than a sentence - Closer is pretty strong stuff.

Director Allan Hart and his cast made an impressive job of presenting this trenchant look at the fragility of intense human relationships. Here, you felt, was a conductor and cast who totally understood what the playwright was driving at. The direction was excellent, the pace never faltered and the characters' seeming insouciance a perfect foil to their inner angst. Rebecca Vincent's stark set, almost devoid of props, hit the right tone at once. The Tower stage was bare, save for three hard hospital waiting room red chairs lined up beneath harsh white lights. The stark black background turned out to be a versatile white and black block designed to change the scene deftly into a bedroom, art gallery or bench. That said, it was clearly not that easy to manouevre and scene changing could have been slicker.

All four characters were well cast. Stephen Armstrong gave a well-judged performance as Dan, the grey-suited newspaper man who makes a living penning obituaries. (Though appearances are deceptive, as we soon discover, as he quickly falls for the disarming charms of ex-stripper Alice). Ian Chaplain was first rate as Larry, the seemingly dull dermatologist whose demeanour as the regular guy next door hides a penchant for X-rated internet chat rooms and strip clubs. Pain, fury and despair blazed across his face in the powerful lap dancing club scene with Alice, when Larry is reduced to a broken man ready to shell out his last cent in a sordid sex-for-sale basement. Every emotion was again keenly portrayed in his final touching scenes with Anna.

Meg Meagher showed an easy confidence in the playing of Alice, the seemingly cocksure lap dancer who claims to make an easy living knowing what men want, yet who turns out to be a needy and frightened little girl when her relationship with Dan founders. Anna - the beautiful but more brittle photographer who is both strong yet vulnerable - was convincingly played by Janet South. She gave us some fine acting in the no-holds-barred scene when Anna recounts the lurid details of her last sexual encounter with Dan to Larry.

Sound design was by Simon Humphries. Full marks for the choice of music played between scenes in this production - its banality perfectly echoed the superficial gloss of its characters. Costume design was handled by Linda Stewart-Birch, with lighting designed by Nick Insley. Among the many scenes designed to shock in this remarkable portrait of messy, modern-day relationships whose sex-obsessed players are prepared to play dirty to get what they want, the internet chatroom scene - when scarcely a word is spoken - stands out. Gail Willis put together the potent Powerpoint presentation central to this scene, whose electrifying dialogue flashes up word by word on a giant screen.

All in all a highly professional production. Applause!