Pros: Wonderful, intelligent acting, and some rather unusual but interesting characters.
Cons: Felt very long, and both plays veered to extremes with a great deal of lecturing.
Doing The Business and Blind were both written by Doug Lucie in the nineties. The program states that Triple Jump Productions revive contemporary plays. This is important to mention because the style and the subject make this play incredibly anachronistic, despite the current political relevance. Doing The Business is set post 1980’s arts cuts, and is about a theatre producer who is seeking sponsorship from an old Cambridge classmate who is working in finance. Blind is about Young British Artists and those who supported them at a time when the value of contemporary art was going through the roof.
These themes are reflected in Lucie’s writing style. The nineties were a time when brash offensive works were getting international acclaim. This production too is strewn with ‘fucks’, without them feeling gratuitous. What is harder to stomach however is the polarisation of the characters. The actors have done a tremendous job making each one as nasty as they can possibly be. The interesting points of view in the text are lost in the sheer obnoxiousness of the characters.
Doing the Business’s Peter for example, is a businessman arguing that sponsorship does indeed come with strings attached. He notes that artists sneer at big business. He highlights that one big hit will fund an entire season. All interesting points, but submerged in utter bastardry: he even cackles maniacally like a proper panto villain. Congrats to Matthew Carter who’s convincingly appalling, but his character is just not very interesting. It’s a recurring issue too: in both pieces the characters don’t evolve, but merely have their secrets revealed. Their unchangeable natures mean that they are simply bumping into each other. Director Saul Reid could have moderated the characters of course, but that would not have been true to the writing or the era it came from. Tough choice. The acting is still terrific though, especially Janna Fox as Maddy.
Entering the auditorium I was quietly excited at the smell of fresh paint. Smell is often ignored in theatre and I was hoping this was some spectacularly significant and evocative cue. Nope, the set was still drying. This is totally forgivable but also telling: the set, props and scene changes were clearly an afterthought. Saul Reid also needs to take an tour of a City office, because currently the set looks like an arts student’s impression of a big bad businessman, which actually lessens the overall credibility. Nevertheless, I was a fan of the decision to form the set out of white blocks. It’s an immensely versatile system, and with some good directing you barely have to move a thing. This unfortunately was somewhat undermined by the minor yet scruffy scene shifts that, due to the complete whiteness of the set, were needless. The musical intervals didn’t help either: it worked once, possibly twice, but after the ninth time it felt lazy rather than evocative.
With this great cast, more research and some extra hours rehearsing, this could be a very thought-provoking and up-to-date discussion of the arts world – and one that I would like to see. Right now, it sadly feels like a rather simplistic echo from twenty years ago.
Author: Doug Lucie
Director: Saul Reid (Doing the Business) and Sean Turner (Blind)
Producer: Triple Jump Productions
Box Office: 020 7729 2202
Booking Link: http://www.thecourtyard.org.uk/whatson/383/blind-and-doing-the-business
Booking Until: 23rd February 2014