Sunday, 31 July 2016

'Sunset at the Villa Thalia' National Theatre, Dorfman ***

As we the people of the United Kingdom try and fathom how the result of the EU Referendum and what an impact it’ll have either positive or more than likely negative circumstances, yet, some nations have suffered catastrophic economical disasters such as; Greece in particular. The National Theatre’s production of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s new play, ‘Sunset at the Villa Thalia’ does combine the Greek economic crisis and unlikely friendships in a satisfactory manner, moreover, the interpretations were competently depicted.

‘Sunset at the Villa Thalia’ is set in the Greek island of Skiathos in both 1967 and 1976 where we are acquainted with English couple, Theo and Charlotte who are renting a house from Stamatis (Christos Callow) and his daughter Maria (Glykeria Dimou) as Theo is writing an up and coming play and see this island as a real motivator for him. They are soon interfered with American couple, Harvey and June who are largely over the top and try almost a bit too hard to commence friendship from Theo and Charlotte as it is obvious that Harvey is an admirer of Theo’s works which somewhat freaks Theo out but is still flattered. Over the course of the performance, we see that Theo and Charlotte’s friendship with Harvey and June is increasingly awkward as they do not appear to have a lot in common with each other a part from their love of the house. Due to the fact that the country is about to face an economic uprising, Harvey tries to persuade Theo to purchase the Villa Thalia so that Stamatis and Maria can move to Australia and start a new life for themselves. Stamatis is of course slightly apprehensive about it, but with quite a lengthy amount of encouragement from Harvey he agrees to sell the house to Theo and Charlotte. Nine years later and Theo and Charlotte are still the owners of the Villa Thalia and this time they have two young children, Adrian (Thomas Berry/Billy Marlow/Ethan Rouse) and Rosalind (Sophia Ally/Dixie Egerickx/Scarlette Nunes) who are on holiday there. It appears that the marriage between Harvey and June is rather strained and this is evident when June has a talk about it with Charlotte and it seems that their marriage could be over. Charlotte is beginning to hate being the co-owner of the Villa Thalia and when Harvey attempts to do some Cossack dance with her children she gets extremely angry and turns the traditional music off as she has just been informed that Maria has been living rough in Australia so with this she is disgusted in herself and Theo for buying the house in the first place. Throughout the second act, it appears that Theo and Charlotte are going to be selling the house for a retreat closer to home in England; as such when Harvey and June are informed of this news, they are disappointed in Theo and Charlotte, however, their decision is final and the villa is put on the market.   At the finale, we are flashbacked to when Maria as a child and the nanny, Agape (Eve Polycarpou) makes it clear to Maria that the house should remain in the family name, but with the house on the market in 1976 with people not in the family name, this has not occurred. Kaye Campbell’s is conventional as yes there are moments where the Greek crisis is described, but there was little analysis about it where the central focus of the plot is the strange friendship of an English couple and an American couple so we could have had half and half but there you go. 

One found the performances by the company of, ‘Sunset at the Villa Thalia’ to be pleasantly portrayed as we can see how people from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are so opposite in many ways and there was a good level of camaraderie that existed here. Sam Crane is great as writer, Theo; specifically how we see that he has a passion for the Villa Thalia in a considerable manner but we see his love for the place decrease as he is more concerned for his family as constant travel is somewhat tiresome for young children. Pippa Nixon is acceptable as Theo’s wife, Charlotte; essentially when she does seem to have a real conscience by how upset she is when she finds out about what Maria is up to and when Harvey kisses her she does seem to be perplexed as she does like June somehow. Ben Miles is courteous as the overbearing American, Harvey; mainly how he comes across hugely domineering by pressuring Theo to buy the Villa Thalia from Stamatis and this is shown throughout as we soon discover that he finds comfort in not only the villa but with the friendship with the English couple. Elizabeth McGovern is congenial as Harvey’s wife, June; for example how at first she is a bit too melodramatic but over time we are sympathetic towards her as when she pours her heart about her marriage to Charlotte there is obvious problems that there’s an emotional side to her.

Simon Godwin’s direction is tolerable here as we are given quite an standard account about how one villa on a Greek island can bring two couples together as we see that he has pushed the culture divide to its ultimate limits, on the other hand, this is helpful with the Greek crisis in the background which makes the friendships even more fraught, plus the characterisations were not too bad either. Hildegard Bechtler’s set and costume designs were awesome to be honest as the attention to detail in the Villa Thalia and through to the costume helped us understand the position of the hierarchy of people, furthermore, the scenic art and scenic construction was outstanding which is not surprising f from the National Theatre’s workshop team of craftsmen and craftswomen.  Overall the experience of, ‘Sunset at the Villa Thalia’ to be a suitable production but for me it’s not one of the most accomplished shows I have seen at the National Theatre.

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