Anders Lustgarten, Paula B Stanic, Georgia Fitch, April De Angelis, Mark Norfolk
Directed by Charlotte Westenra
Pros: The characters are well written and varied with good performances by the cast. The parallel recollections provide a textured view of the human story of the Blair years.
Cons: The stories lack climax and the production fizzles out in the second act. It would benefit from a lot more humour.
Our Verdict: Gets off to a strong start, with a sound concept, clever format and some very well written characters. Unfortunately, it is too long winded and lacks a dramatic punch.
This play is actually a collection of characters written by five London playwrights, the first commission under the Cockpit’s Theatre of Ideas and Disruptive Panache
banner. Each writer portrays a character in a coffee shop, recalling the impact of Blair’s administration on their lives and the lives of those close to them. The format is clever and is borrowed from a 70s play set in a bar in New York. It’s a concept that is easily relatable and provides much opportunity to portray characters from all walks of life in the same timeframe, which gives a lot of texture and variety to the script and the stories being conveyed.
The writers do an excellent job and certainly deliver contrast between the characters. There are strong stories with vibrant detail and credible personalities, the audience really get to know each individual, what’s important to them and the legacy the Blair years have left them with dealing with.The characters develop and grow through the duration of the play. However, after the interval when the play continued in the same format, it felt very homogenous and I found myself willing something else to happen. And then as the chapters close the drama dissipates and the characters leave the coffee shop without any real dramatic climax.
The cast perform well and really live their characters with impact. Michelle Butterly plays Marie, a woman recounting the events of her housewarming party and the events that lead up to that moment. Butterly is completely credible and captures Georgia Fitch’s social worker with alacrity. Caroline Guthrie is Anders Lustgarten’s character, Maggie, who tells us all about her relationship with her adult son. Guthrie is a powerhouse player, really genuine and moving in her portrayal. Dee is a young man tagged and in trouble with the law, relating both his and his mother’s experience of the changes brought by the new Labour government. Dee is written by Mark Norfolk and played with appropriate disillusionment and menace by Royce Pierreson. We meet eastern European immigrant, Vlatco, written by Paula B Stanic, who is energetically performed by Christopher Patrick Nolan. Nolan injects some much needed humour with commendable comic timing. The last character we meet is Jennifer, the council estate kid done good, now working for an MP. Rosie Armstrong plays April De Angelis’ character convincingly and with ironic juxtaposition, which is entertaining and thought provoking.
Their stories are interesting, colourful and reveal varying aspects of the very real, social impact of the Blair administration. One thing it just doesn’t deliver is laughs; they are few and far between and sorely missed. The downside of the format of five dialogues in a cafe is that the characters are contained as they finish their coffees . They don’t interact, they don’t get emotional and so the crux of their tales lack drama and impact. They get to the point, drink their dregs and leave. After such a lengthy discourse, there’s a strong sense of something lacking; a need of an eruption, some real, perhaps physical drama. In short, the piece is missing a bigger punch line. Whilst the second act is disappointing for this reason, the show is still worth seeing for the fantastic character writing from some very talented playwrights.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Blair’s Children runs at The Cockpit until 22 June 2013.