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A CurtainUp London Review
Starting seemingly as a study of neighbours and loneliness in a city, we see the Tall Man (Justin Salinger) approached by the Short Man (Paul Hunter) in a café near to the block of flats where they both live. Intrusive and sinister, the Short Man seems to have been observing the tall Man and his remarks make you feel that his actions have been close to stalking him and his pretty wife, Tall Woman (Justine Mitchell). When the Short Man starts to threaten the Tall Man the power play takes hold.
Paul Hunter plays the "desperate for friendship" neighbour who ingratiates himself by always fixing things, someone who is only tolerated because of their use to others and whom most people find creepy. When the lights start to fizzle in the Tall Man and Woman's flat and they don't have an electrician, you can imagine who will volunteer to do the job. Amanda Lawrence plays the Short Man's strange and quirky wife who has insomnia and watches a late night television programme to help insomniacs hosted by a television doctor (Matthew Dunster) in a white coat and a fez. The television programme plays in between scenes and has a moving news feed along the bottom of the screen which wittily counts sheep and has quirky messages from sleepless viewers.
Juan Mayorga's play is interesting , well crafted, at times uncomfortable. It is about living in a city where people cross paths but do not speak. His characters are brought to life by some excellent performances. Paul Hunter's insidious intrusion as the friendless man, Justin Salinger is so convincing as he listens, wide-eyed, to his weird neighbour wants to get away but is trapped and Amanda Lawrence's gawky and divulging innocent. I was transfixed by Justin Salinger's polite attention to the strange man who becomes increasingly menacing.
The Gate is one of London's small pub theatres which provides new work in an intimate setting at bargain prices.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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