18 February 2009

Complicit at The Old Vic

It is almost exactly twenty years since I last went to The Old Vic (to see Eric Porter as King Lear) and I was finally drawn back to see Complicit through a tempting discount offer at work.

My prolonged absence has little to do with The Old Vic itself and has more to do with the steady diet of good theatre locally at the Orange Tree in Richmond.

My visits to Central London theatres have averaged about once a year and these have generally been with the family in tow, which has been the major influence on what I've seen.

The Old Vic is very conveniently situated for me being just a few minutes walk from Waterloo Station. As the picture shows, its a fairly standard Victorian theatre. There are few surprises in the waiting areas either where the former grandeur is slightly diminished by worn carpets and tired d├ęcor. The Pit Bar in the basement has been updated and is a cosy place to enjoy that all important pre-performance pint of Staropramen.

The theatre itself is more of a shock. There is a lot of the old theatre still there but the centre has been gouged out to move the stage so that it is now in the round, i.e. surrounded by seating. It is a round stage too, unlike the Orange Tree which is also in the round but is square (if you get what I mean). It works well.

Complicit examines America's attitude to the war on terror where a leading journalist who exposes torture, and the rendition that leads to it, is attacked as an terrorist sympathiser. The war is deemed by the authorities to take precedent over the right to free speech.

The play discussed the conflict of free speech and patriotism through dialogues between the journalist (Richard Dreyfuss), his attorney (David Suchet) and his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) over two days as the journalist is interrogated by a Grand Jury.

The dialogues between journalist and attorney are the meat of the play and both actors are superb in presenting the arguments and in showing the emotion of the situation.

It is less clear why the wife is there. Her arguments about putting the family first are unconvincing and there is no passion shown between the couple. It may just be a crude devise to allow the two main actors some respite but it does not really matter as this little weakness does nothing to diminish the main drama.

The short story around the Grand Jury hearing serves as a good framework for the arguments and gives the play a natural and rewarding ending. Well, two actually. The play does what it sets out to do, it is thought provoking for people on both sides of the argument and it provides entertainment. It's not faultless but it is very good.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to read, Matthew and I agree entirely about the wife's part.

    You are well-served for theatre in your part of London - not only the Orange Tree in Richmond, but The Rose in Kingston, where I've been a couple of times recently.

    Sheila

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