By Thomas Babe
Directed by Dominic Hill
Venue: Young Vic Theatre
Date: Saturday 8th March
The Young Vic has been transformed for this play. Instead of the seats on four sides round the central stage, there are two steeply raked banks of seats on either side of a long narrow acting space, which is on two levels. At ground level (stage-wise) there’s the precinct room where the action mainly takes place. Above this is the street level, with the entrance stairs. There are balloons and streamers everywhere, as it’s midnight after July 4th, and mercifully, there was a fan blowing. It’s a massive construction, and frankly I don’t know whether it’s entirely necessary, but it’s certainly impressive.
The play, originally staged in 1977, concerns two men brought in for questioning by two cops. An old woman has been shot, and these men are the suspects. As the interrogations, and some beatings, unfold, we also learn that one of the cops has a daughter who’s threatening to commit suicide. His reluctance to go out looking for her is the dramatic focus of the play, and she’s the daughter for whom they say a prayer at the end. During the play, the younger cop takes drugs, and gives some drugs to the suspects, while the older cop, who’s been drinking steadily, has his gun lifted by one of the suspects and nearly gets shot. It’s not exactly an advert for the NYPD.
The performances were good, with Matthew Marsh giving a very strong portrayal of the older cop with a daughter he just doesn’t understand. He makes the character’s choice not to help her seem understandable, even if it also appears callous. The other actors did a fine job too, and the only problem I had with this play is that it seemed tremendously dated. It may have had some punch back in 1977, but nowadays, with all the drama that’s been and gone in between, the situation and characters seem hackneyed to my eyes. Having said that, I didn’t feel bored, and there were some good moments in the script. We were surprised that a woman had brought her three young sons to see the show, as there was a fair bit of blood and violence as well as the drug use, but it takes all sorts. I hope they get a stronger play for next time.
© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me