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A CurtainUp London Review
The scene switches to Mark's parents' house in the country. Hannah, his mother (Su Douglas) is pleased to have her son at home but obviously nervous about the relationship between her husband, Douglas (Alan Charlesworth) and their only child. She is encouraging Mark to look at his father's plant additions to the garden and to admire them. As the father comes into the room, the atmosphere cools: Alex clams up and the father bristles and blusters. We go to the office of the new psychiatrist Dr Houghton (Paul Chesterton) who, with more than a little touch of the obsessive (kinder souls might say attention to detail) is arranging and rearranging two chairs for meeting his new patient, Alex. The layers build with Alex seen in all three contexts as he gets more aggressive with Emily and almost to breaking point with his father. We learn more about Alex's school history and start to be aware of his flare-ups and physical aggression both in what he tells us about his past and how he is behaving now.
Andrew Keatley's play has convincing, fluid dialogue and a well structured, believable storyline. Director Derek Bond and designer James Perkins have kept the set largely similar, only initially delineating Alex's flat as opposed to his parents' house and the doctor's office. From then on, the table which doubles as a desk mounts with the cups of tea made by Hannah, the glasses of wine drunk in London, the glasses of water Alex brings into the doctor's office. I liked this build up of cups and tea pot and glasses, deliberately left there in the interval, symbols of the revelations we have about Alex's last ten years as the record builds, telling us more but also looking muddled. The set is surrounded on two sides by shelves which house a large collection of everyday paraphernalia.
Alex Price as Mark has to be unpleasant, short tempered, increasingly difficult without losing the audience's sympathy. This is partly facilitated by the wit of his acrimony and partly by our feeling that he is suffering. As Dr Houghton says, "The truth is that everybody houses trauma". Price's performance is vulnerable and cocksure, volatile and really interesting to watch. Polly Findlay as sweet natured Emily gets to go home with Mark and meet his parents but this weekend sees the start of a serious unravelling of any attempt at family harmony. Emily doesn't understand what is happening to her boyfriend but she does try to get him more help from an unreceptive Dr Houghton. How has this family been seeing Dr Houghton's predecessor for ten years? There are interesting moments when Mark asks his mother about his birth and childhood, times when we feel the father is such an authoritarian, he may be hiding something, building up to a shocking but cathartic denouement. Only then can Hannah start to clear away the tea cups!
The Old Red Lion is an example of London's smallest drama venues, pub theatres which often deliver new and relevant work by stars of the future to a young audience. Colourings is well written, well acted and well worth seeing.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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