Pros: The show tackles a weighty and difficult subject honestly and with great delivery.
Cons: I felt the character of Peter needed some kind of consequence for his actions, which the play did not include.
There are topics that are not explored enough in performance, one of those being inappropriate sexual behaviour and its prominence in the modern world. Goodnight Polly Jones does not shy away from this taboo, quite the opposite in fact: it continuously questions what is and what isn’t acceptable from two separate viewpoints. We are positioned on the seventh floor of the ‘EasyFoods’ office and follow the interactions of Polly (Victoria Morrison), a bright, immature and exceedingly flirty warehouse worker, and Peter (Ben Keenan), her human resources manager who is under qualified and, more importantly, married. After a sexual encounter at a work event, Polly struggles to recollect the events of that night and years later returns to confront Peter in an emotional and gripping way.
The story features an honest performance by Victoria Morrison, who shows real character development as Polly changes substantially over the course of the play. The overwhelming emotion in her performance captures the seriousness of the issues and delivers them in a hard-hitting way. Meanwhile, Ben Keenan’s strong conviction and dominance of the stage shows the power imbalance between the two. Lighting and set changes show the passing of time and an audio recording of a television provides a way of buying time between costume changes. It makes the show drag a little, although it does do the job.
I felt the most important aspect of the play was how it dealt with an incident of what was essentially sexual abuse. The play implies a lack of consent on Polly’s side and Peter’s degradation and emotional manipulation seem received in an all too real way. The reactions of the characters to the scenario are wonderfully directed and the dialogue thoughtfully written. I particularly liked the clever way in which some lines spoken in the present mirror the past; it drives home the lasting effect the encounter had on both characters. However, at the end of the play Polly does not get justice for the blatant disregard of her consent and Peter suffers not even close to what I feel he deserves to. I wasn’t made to hate Peter, even though morally I know I should, which is my only criticism of the show.
Director Lana MacIver creates an incredible amount of visually interesting scenes with simply two actors, two chairs, two tables and a desk. I never once found my eyes doing anything other than stare intently at both characters. It really says something when I don’t turn to give a disapproving look when I hear a phone vibrate in a theatre! MacIver and writer Andrew Sharpe have collaboratively created a relevant and interesting piece. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, but something I certainly want to see again.
It’s difficult to explain how important this play is, and how real the events seem. My emotions were in constant conflict: one minute I was laughing and the next I was feeling uncontrollable empathy. This play really does cover it all in terms of emotions, and the intimate feel of the theatre only makes the experience more personal. If you want to see a modern and fresh story commendably tackling today’s issues then I highly recommend it. And even if you don’t, I would still urge you to go.
Author: Andrew Sharpe
Director: Lana MacIver
Producer: Cabbages and Kings
Box Office: 07 969 138 899
Booking Link: http://www.goodnightpollyjones.co.uk/
Booking Until: 13 February 2016