New Play: First Night – “Evening at the Talk House”

jpeg 1 Evening at the Talk HouseWhen lights go up on “Evening at the Talk House” by American actor and playwright Wallace Shawn ( world premier National Theatre 24 November ) you expect a who dunnit murder mystery.

A nostalgic reunion of four Americans and Four Brits at a club, The Talk House,  which had seen better days managed by the kindly Nellie (Anna Calder-Marshall), the same soft atmosphere, the familiar drinks and her trademark snacks. Robert the playwright (Josh Hamilton) , Ted the composer, Jane the once in the past actress, come waitress and Dick the former stage star beaten by time, events, betrayal and physically beaten up the night before. No Agatha Christie  Miss Marble to solve the mystery.

Ian Rickson production mixes streams running into a wider emotional valley. A subtle political statement on how far things can go when futuristic society self-righteous authorities run “ murders programme”  for the general good; ruining parallel verbal games of some human psychology in individual speeches,  two-handers and group arguments, raising questions on how much our present  scares us that the only life raft is our memories of a safer past.

Surprisingly,  Evening At the Talk House’s   Author  Mr Shawn who plays the defeated beaten former Star Dick speaks the least number of lines, but when he does they are powerful soul churning  making him is a point of reference (in Shakespearean sense) to measure how far the immorality of others have reached while the only two morally acceptable characters, Nellie isn’t part of the balance changing argument and  Bill losses it at ease .

Both Shawn and Rickson, helped by the lighting of  Neil Austin use theatrical devices to align mind, vision , emotions and audience own experiences to produce a continuous thought process that stays with you hours after you leave the theatre.

The play’s weakest point characters like Robert  don’t develop with the drama but it is our feelings towards them that develop. Rikson and Austin use lights to shore up the two characters Robert and Jane the actress came maid-assassin  in government murders scheme (Sinead Matthews—great performance with script and director putting very difficult physical demands on her gentle body carrying trays and moving all the time) . Rikson moves them down stage left. Robert  stands behind her with distance about 4-5 feet while their shadows are much closer almost touching when reflected from the projectors-light on a screen.  The past was much safer, cosier and humane than the present.

The play isn’t a light entertainment as American playwrights not on the same par as  British dramatists in witty puns and quips; but as intellectual drama it is enjoyable .

It raises disturbing moral, social and political questions relevant to current political events hard decisions and who makes them.  There will be a special discussion session of 30 minutes after Friday 27 November show.

The play (Click for full review)  is 1:36 no interval; no westend style seats, but they are ok . A good reasonably  priced bar but not much food there. There is a cloak room for coats and bags but a long queue to retract them after the play. verdict  **** (four stars)