Saturday, 28 November 2015

'Evening at the Talk House' National Theatre, Dorfman **

Theatre at times can present a colossal amount of expectations either an awaited new play, a famous actor, director, designer etc. on the other hand, productions can lead to you becoming very lethargic where you unknowingly drift off to sleep because of how dull the show is. The National Theatre’s production of Wallace Shawn’s world premiere play, ‘Evening at the Talk House’ could have been a hit production, but sadly this wasn’t the case here, by the same token, the performances were adequately depicted.

‘Evening at the Talk House’ is set in the central meeting room of the Talk House where writer, Robert who was once an esteemed theatre writer decided to fly the coop from the outdated theatre environment and progress into writing for TV; especially comedies. He decides to hold a 10th anniversary reunion to the day of his last theatre play, ‘Midnight in a Clearing with Moon and Stars’ where he invites all those involved to rekindle relationships and see what everyone is up to. Questionably is the reunion such a brilliant idea? As the guests gather for the get together, it appears that things are not exactly going too well for some of the guests with regards to how their careers have advanced. This is evident when proletarian actor, Dick enters the party with dried up blood all over his face due to the fact that he was beaten up by people who are supposed to be his “friends”, to make himself more presentable the shows former wardrobe mistress, Annette (Naomi Wirthner) cleans him up. Over the course of the performance, we see how many of theatre professionals have been able to adapt where they can move into the television industry such as producer of the play, Bill (Joseph Mydell) has become an established talent agent and actor, Tom (Simon Shepherd) has formed an reputable career as a television actor in Robert’s popular TV comedies. Nevertheless, it is clear that the majority of them have lost their passions for theatre and the entertainment industry and who they actually are. But when club hostess, Nellie remains altogether similar to whom she was a decade ago, she constantly reminds them of their past and their original persons 10 years ago. There are cynics present at the gathering where they are immensely negative towards the world and how theatre is no longer a way to propose political issues. Throughout the show, waitress Jane (Sinead Matthews) has a desire to become an actress, yet with such sceptics like the composer, Ted (Stuart Milligan) around the possibilities of her dreams becoming a reality is far from approaching. As the reunion flows, Dick suggests what the theatre and society has been missing over the last decade in a drunken state and how the world has become an atmosphere of full on dread. At the finale, Dick and his ex-friends appear to look at how the world has changed either for the worse or the better where it suggests that the Western and well developed world is going to be going through a decline of some kind means that life will become unbearable if topics are not talked about on stage or on screen.  Shawn’s narrative is discouraging as the whole plot feels too jumbled as with politics, the state of theatre and unemployment into an hour and forty five minute performance caused the plot to degrade itself at many periods as it was unclear. 

One found the performances by the company of, ‘Evening at the Talk House’ to be passable through tolerable American accents, diction and articulation, furthermore the movements directed by Maxine Doyle were acceptable throughout. Wallace Shawn is judicious as faded actor, Dick; especially where his floundering career has made him contemptuous against society and theatre makes him realise that with theatre it allows audiences to become informed with the society of the day.  Josh Hamilton is on the ball as writer, Robert; mainly the humongous and long monologue at the start of the play in which he is striving to help all those in his final theatrical show to remind them about what they have achieved in their careers and to reconnect relationships that have been lost for ten years. Anna Calder-Marshall is notable as club hostess, Nellie; predominantly where she decides to push the party goers that their pretentious attitude is vulgar and reminds them that your moral compass and the people around you are the most integral things you need in your life and that money or success is not at all important. 

Ian Rickson’s direction is befitting here as he has been able to interpret Shawn’s concept which I would find challenging to get a handle on as the muddled storyline does show how a dramaturg would have helped the narrative to achieve its full potential, Sadly this was not put into place her so that is why the director’s vision looks somewhat chaotic.  The Quay Brothers’ set and Soutra Gilmour’s costumes are appropriate as the set appears to look like a run-down function room in a pub in a deprived area and the costumes portray the feeling of who is successful and who is a complete and utter failure.  Overall, the experience of, ‘Evening at the Talk House’ was a vastly slumberous and at times laggard show that is not testament to Wallace Shawn’s writing and acting abilities.

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