Car Crash at the Barons Court Theatre is set on deadline day: a football club needs to sign a last minute striker to replace a dropout. The cast is five actors strong with the protagonist being the club’s chairman, Peter Murlowe (played by Michael Byers). Peter’s having a bad day at the office, or the worst one that he could have. With the chaos of the signing taking place, and his home life crumbling to pieces, he struggles to keep his composure in front of his very confrontational colleagues.
Peter’s manager, David Rubin (Jonny Magnanti) is the stalking, machismo boss with a keen eye on keeping everything under the budget to get a good deal on the new striker. The other characters hold their breaths so as to not make a bad move in his presence that will cause him to very easily erupt.
Magnanti portrays Rubin well, keeping a stern eye on all of his fearful employees, and he commands the stage in the few moments he has to himself. These tense moments are palpable for the audience and set the mood and expositional context sufficiently. It’s very clear that Rubin is not the warm, sensitive boss that would allow his colleagues to make the odd mistake or two. There are many moments where he explodes in expletives to his chairman and team manager, Jason Lumley (Craig Edgley).
The standout performance comes from Tremont Deigh as Michael Lansana, a young office assistant present for work experience. He still maintains a keen passion for football where the other characters are definitely losing sight of their enthusiasm for the beautiful game. Michael is not afraid to rub Rubin the wrong way and tell him how he is wrong, creating a key conflict in the narrative.
Murlowe, the scatterbrained chairman, suffers from intense panic attacks. He uses a metaphor of the Oceangate submersible whenever tension rises, which seems a rogue choice in the narrative and leaves audiences asking, ‘Is this too soon?’ Just before halftime in the hour long play, Murlowe suffers from one of these episodes, clamouring: ‘There’s water, there’s water!’ and is only put right again when Victoria Sasso’s Sarah Isley (the only female in the office, in charge of making the deals) gathers his broken pieces. Sasso portrays this character very well, showing them handling the pressure of being put to the test to close this deal: a special task set by Rubin to make her prove herself. Here there is a slightly elementary discussion of feminist themes that fit the narrative, however these could be explored with more nuance. Sarah is condemned for her femininity in the man’s world in which she finds herself and Sasso captures her frustration from this.
Finding itself in the charmingly dingy basement of the Curtains Up pub, with sounds of chairs moving and glasses clinking above, Car Crash evocatively encapsulates how theatre can be at its grassroots and is worth the watch. The narrative is engaging and the actors commendable. Magnanti has certainly taken steps to find his stride as a director, and I look forward to seeing his progress, as he becomes more comfortable engaging with the big hitting themes.
Written and Directed by Buno Magnanti
Lighting/Stage Manager: Tasmin Wickremeratne
Produced by: Look Closer Theatre Company
Car Crash has completed its current run.