Henna Night

Jack Belloli 26 October 2009

Jack Belloli takes in an evening of hairy delight as the playroom opens its doors for the term

Corpus Playroom Mainshow – 7.30pmTues 20th-Sat 24th Oct

3/5

And I thought my room was a mess… This week at the Corpus Playroom, we’re being drawn into the bedsit-cum-hovel of Judith, who’s left a message on her ex-boyfriend’s answer phone threatening either to slit her wrists or dye her hair. Unfortunately, it’s his new girlfriend Ros who takes action.

As I say, the set is impressively realistic and is not afraid to shove an Esprit logo in your face from downstage as characters tread upon the debris strewn across the floor. It’s made even more effective by a simple pre-show: the eye is drawn around the details of the flat as we watch Judith fail to settle down.

You want the performances to weave around the complicated set, but often it feels like a play of two paces: fast and slow. The former dominates, particularly at the start.

There’s a laudable desire to give Ros and Judith an aggressive relationship of invasion and defence, but people don’t talk that fast in real life, and they certainly don’t if they want you to catch their (rather good) jokes.

When the slower moments arrive, they feel self-consciously big, dramatic and occasionally repetitive.

That aside, performances are generally good. Nicola Pollard as Ros is the greater culprit when it comes to fast delivery, leading to some awkward phrasing and tonal flatness, but she skilfully evokes both sympathy and the sense that there a job’s being done. Tilda Stickley milks the quick wit that prevents Judith from becoming depressed and depressing, and she offers a rug-trippingly good delivery of ‘Mission accomplished’. The climactic ‘washing out’ (I say no more) is nicely touching. It brings us back to the realism of the set and the sudden drop in volume makes the audience feel slightly guilty about listening in. Most of my quibbles are no doubt opening-night stuff. 

Do go and see it, not least because it’s crying out for the oppressive but supportive closeness that comes with a bigger audience than it had on Tuesday night. Bring along wine and chocolate, and you might just create a curious marriage between a quiet night in and a fun night out.

Jack Belloli