Written and directed by David Lewis
Venue: Orange Tree Theatre
Date: Tuesday 4th June 2013
This is a new play, written and directed by David Lewis, and the blend of personal issues, therapy sessions and twitching created a very funny production. The story was told initially through these therapy sessions, with parts of the earlier action acted out in front of us and the relevant therapist. Later, as the relationships became more jumbled, the action flowed from one confrontation to another with frequent changes of location.
The set which supported all this was remarkably simple: four square-shaped armchairs were placed on stage, one in each corner. On the right of each chair was a small table which held a box of tissues and a glass of water, while there was a red notebook in each table’s drawer. A two-tone carpet sat in the middle of the stage, and the furnishings were all in matching shades of cream and pale gold – very soothing. Other items were brought on as needed – a telephone, a bowl of quail’s eggs, a chair hide – but mostly it was just the actors and the lighting changes which set the scene for us – very effective.
The story revolved around Terry and Fran’s troubled marriage: she was beyond fed up that he was still dashing off to spot the next bird without any notice or consideration for her, while he was fixated on beating a (dead) rival’s twitching total of 504, and didn’t understand his wife’s anger about it. Part of the problem was that Terry had promised to stop when he got to 500 and in order to keep going he’d lied to Fran about how many birds he’d spotted. Things came to a head when he not only missed a dinner party which Fran had arranged (yellow bellied fly-catcher), but came back home wearing the very T-shirt which announced to the world that he’d seen the magic 500 species! We saw these events twice, from each spouse’s viewpoint, and the subtle differences in each version were very revealing.
There were other characters involved too; the two therapists Charlie and Megan, Charlie’s wife Karen, Fran’s boss Ben and a female twitcher Jill. Charlie and Megan knew each other and they both had issues, not least over Karen. Ben was another of Megan’s clients, leading to a potential problem with her treating Terry, which wasn’t resolved in the course of the play, while Jill’s involvement with Terry led to accusations of him stalking his wife. He was in his chair hide in the living room, staking out some bird food in the hope of seeing a rare bird (it’s complicated) and was accidentally discovered by his wife as she and Ben were about to have sex on the living room carpet. The way he tried to creep away, still in his chair hide, was funny enough, but the reaction of his wife and Ben was just hilarious.
The complexities of the plotting are beyond my ability to describe any further; the whole play worked brilliantly as a door-less farce, as well as describing some aspects of human relationships which were recognisable from our own experience. There was plenty of humour and the important first laugh came very early on, so we knew we were in for a good time. The cast did a great job; with such a complicated story, it’s vital that the actors are clear about what’s going on so that the audience can follow it as well, and they did that perfectly.
© 2013 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me