Pros: Well-developed characters and a tight story, with no excess baggage.
Cons: It would have been nice to see a bit more of the back history with the husband. A rude person next to me was regularly checking their phone, so its glare proved distracting (grrr!).
Coping with guilt over one’s actions is hard. Coping with someone who has no obvious faults, but reminds you of your own shortcomings is harder. Such is the dilemma faced by Anna Montague (Kate Blackshaw), who is suffering from alcoholism.
From as early as their wedding day, we see how husband Jeremy (Greg Patmore) feels the need to keep Anna’s drinking in check and how oppressive his vigilance feels to Anna. We later learn that Jeremy has been in a coma for several months, after being knocked over in a car accident. Helping Anna to make sense of the past and her own feelings is a young man (Michael Lyle), who though very different to her in some ways, shares other traits and characteristics. For Michael, Anna is the mother figure who is absent from his life; while for Anna, he is a reminder of herself – someone who certainly has faults, but has a lot to offer if given a second chance.
The arrival of her husband’s friend David – relaxed in temperament in comparison to Jeremy – opens her eyes to what’s been missing in her life. However, her husband is still the elephant in the room as she wrestles with the decision of turning off his life support machine.
All three actors gave striking performances, with Lyle bringing a vulnerability to the young man’s initial bravado and Patmore switching with ease between the distraught Jeremy and David’s serene demeanour. Without a doubt though, the honours of the night belong to Blackshaw. Her rendition of Anna was of a multi-faceted woman, not weak or demure, but someone struggling with her own inner demons, with no initial support.
The set design successfully conveyed the importance of drink in Anna’s routine. Placed on top of all the work surfaces and edge of the stage were empty bottles of alcohol, in addition to large bottles of water hanging from the ceiling; all hinted at the ubiquitous presence of alcohol around the house, creating temptation everywhere. Similarly, in Anna’s studio, numerous drawings of faces and eyes were strewn, perhaps hinting at the need to be seen, but not judged.
During its hour duration, The Beloved manages to fit a lot in with economical storytelling and engaging performances. An accomplished and emotionally-satisfying play.
Author: Chantelle Dusette
Director: Niall Phillips
Producer: CoOp Theatre
Stage Manager: Kelly Selvester
Designer: Dacter Pinch
Lighting Designer: Alastair Borland
Booking Until: 26th April 2014
Box Office: 020 7835 2301
Booking Link: www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/tickets