The Play

Written and Directed by Gavin Churnin
Unity Theatre, 16th-17th June 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

As entrances go, my short walk from the theatre door to my seat was an unsettling one. In front of me, a man jabbed impatiently at his laptop while a woman lay motionless at his feet. In the front row, an older lady shrieked abuse and told me to shut up because I was late. A glance at my mobile showed that I was five minutes early and that either she was very misguided or drunk or both. About another twenty people got the same treatment before the man with the laptop spat out the very angry opening words of The Play.

In each Padded Cell production, the characters are inmates and the audience are psychiatrists. But in The Play we also get to play detective. Who killed the woman lying on the floor, and why? Real life writer Gavin Churnin takes us on a journey backwards and forwards in time, slowly unravelling another thread of the tangled lives he has created and destroyed.

Danny (Matt Owen) longs to be a great playwright. The only slight problem with that is he can't think of anything to write about. When long time best mate Phil (David Washbrook) suggests writing a play about their relationship, Danny just laughs. But then he meets Phil's new girlfriend Anastasia (Elizabeth Brown) and decides she is one actress he wants to co-star with. The trio enter into a complex love triangle that would be hell to live in but certainly makes a fine play.

As if that’s not enough, we also have a whole psychological level to get our teeth into. When a crime is committed, who really bears responsibility? What makes ‘normal’ people do ‘crazy’ things? Even the abusive lady in the front row must have been pure and innocent once, so what turned her into a sociopath?

Staged almost exclusively in blacks and whites, The Play had a real film noir anxiety about it. Owen gleefully danced on the line between genius and insanity, whilst Washbrook was awesome in both his range and intensity. Though Elizabeth Brown certainly looked the part, the character of Anastasia didn’t seem quite sultry and seductive enough to be a true femme fatale, so the strength of male passion she aroused seemed slightly out of proportion. But this was a relatively minor flaw and didn’t take much away from what was a very accomplished performance from the young outpatients and inmates.

Printer friendly page