Sunday, 25 October 2015

'Playground' Old Red Lion Theatre **

In specific cliques of modern society, communities are fragmented and pulverised due to the unknown nature of the world, but can this message noticeably be visible to audience where Enid Blyton’s work is being used to enhance this? The Old Red Lion Theatre’s production of Peter Hamilton’s, ‘Playground’ was a rather discombobulating story about a murder mystery which makes it harder to try and figure out what the premise of the play is, in addition to this, the depictions were passable.

‘Playground’ is set in Victoria Park in East London where a lot of children have been barbarically massacred by being beheaded with a fretsaw; as such a rigorous police investigation is forthcoming by inspectors, Detective Inspector Mitchell (Dan MacLane) and DC Birch (Christopher James Barley) who are both puzzled to the extent of the murders. Simultaneously, in a different segment of the park, night cleaner, Danny who at the time is engrossed by reading one of the ‘Famous Five’ books, yet when Carolyn rushes to the lake with an aim on her own intentions. When Danny commences a conversation with Carolyn, they soon identify a shared interest and that is with literary work. Over the course of the performance, Danny, Carolyn, painter/decorator Stuart (Simon Every) and teenager Tamsin (Laura Garnier) who are patients of psychiatrist of Dr Ross come together for a book club where the only books they talk about is Enid Blyton’s, ‘Famous Five’. However, there is a link between the book club and to the murders of the children as page 100 of Enid Blyton’s books have been placed on the top of the dead bodies. The investigation is becoming strenuous and the general public are becoming panicky who are finding techniques to protect themselves and other children. This is evident when the owner of Izzy’s CafĂ© in Victoria Park, Bella (Sarah Quist) decides that it is necessary that she carries a large serrated knife inside her handbag. It is thought that Danny is the killer as she is concerned by his obsession with Enid Blyton’s and she reports him to the police as he is the most likely candidate. He admits to being the killer and is taken for questioning and throughout the questioning it is not Danny who murdered all of these children, but in actual fact it was Dr Ross who was the culprit. At the finale when Dr Ross is exposed as the killer, Stuart thinks that Bella is his sister who he hasn’t seen for a very long time but she says that she is not, but we know that she is his sister. Hamilton’s narrative is complicated as the message of the piece is not clear or obvious to the audience member as we think it is fundamentally about a serial killer murdering children with Enid Blyton’s methods of murder mystery to captivate this. 

One found the performances by the company of, ‘Playground’ to be satisfactory as they did convey the childlike and mentally ill characteristics of the roles. Richard Fish is acceptable as odd night cleaner, Danny; specifically at the point where his fascination of Enid Blyton’s makes it clear that not all doctors can be trusted as they can manipulate vulnerable people into thinking they have done things which they have not. Josie Ayers is adequate as Carolyn; especially when you see how a friendship between her and Danny is really intriguing as both are damaged so they have that common bond and become motherly towards Danny as he is a very lonely due to how strange he is with no family. 

Ken McClymont’s direction is bizarre and tomfoolery here as he has not presented much clarity into how the message could have been entwined into the show to make it visible and the detailing of how the characters are linked together was really disappointing and indistinguishable which is not helped by Hamilton’s shoddy plotline. Ken McClymont’s designs are on the other hand quite attractive as making Victoria Park in such a small space has been realised meticulously as you were immediately transported to the park in a good way, this meant that the design is one of the only positive aspects of the show. Overall, the experience of, ‘Playground was somewhat tragic and appalling one that leaves you really muddled when you left the auditorium so I really didn’t like the performance.

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