Small Change – May 2008


By Peter Gill

Directed by Peter Gill

Venue: Donmar Theatre

Date: Thursday 15th May 2008

The performances were all excellent, honest, it’s just that the play didn’t really work for me. Both Steve and I came up with the same word afterwards – pretentious.

Written in 1976, this appeared to be an attempt by Peter Gill to write in a Greek tragedy style, but based on ordinary lives, and while there was much to enjoy in some aspects, there was a lot of terribly dull stuff, too. For example, I very much liked the dialogue between the two mothers; it was well observed and reminded me of the Fifties, what little I could remember. The halting, jerky exchanges between the two sons also came across well – the way they didn’t answer each other’s questions and the sudden changes of direction. For humour, there was the chase sequence as young Gerard runs round the stage to keep away from a mother hell bent on giving him a hiding.

But apart from these things, there was nothing to keep me from nodding off, as I did occasionally in the second half. Once the two men had admitted their obvious feelings for one another, going right back to their childhoods, there was a long section where they simply yelled at each other, to no useful purpose. Very dull.

There was no set, just the four actors and four chairs, which were moved around a few times. The action was mainly in flashback, topped and tailed by Gerard’s poetic reminiscences of two photographs from his childhood. In between, there was a generally forward momentum, but I wasn’t always sure where we were, time-wise, and that definitely reduced my enjoyment. It was also a bit confusing having Vincent’s mother alive again after she’d died. I wasn’t sure if that was a flashback or an alternative storyline, and while I normally love ambiguity in a play, the impression here was that the writing wasn’t up to the job.

Not a play I’d see again, but superb performances from the whole cast.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at

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