7 May 2009

Factors Unforeseen at the Orange Tree

Factors Unforeseen is the latest production at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and another fine production it is too.

The heart of the play is the story of a manufacturer of sun tan cream that is badly hit by the very public death of a celebrity from skin cancer. This story is seen from the perspectives of the factory's management and workers, the celebrity and the company's American owners.

The participants' stories are interleaved and all take place on the one stage at the same time using a cast of some twenty actors playing thirty parts.

This sounds confusing but the clever direction makes it work.

The action takes place in the middle of the stage and round the edge we have three tableaux showing us the workers, celebrity and owners.

The actors in these tableaux sit remarkably still except when it is their turn to say their part of the story. The three tableaux also rotate twice during the play to give the audience different views of the action.

In contrast to the stillness of the tableaux, the main action is often frantic with the cast running on and off stage in all directions and frequently jumping on to the table in the centre of the stage. The picture shows the sales manager rallying his troops and in the background (far left) there is the celebrity (a princess) with her interviewer and (far right) one of the American owners.

The main story is fairly easy to summarise (but I wont, go and see it yourself!) and has no real surprises but it is compelling and involving story than is enhanced by being presented through the various perspectives.

The story comes to a simple, natural and satisfactory end that mirrors the opening. The chaos is gone, as is most of the cast, and all the story threads are brought together and are closed.

Because of the complex structure of the play there are no natural breaks and so no interval but while I missed my usual half-time Becks it was better for the drama to watch it unfold in one sitting and I spent most of the 1 3/4 hours with a grin on my face.

Yet another good play from the Orange Tree that maintains its reputation for presenting unusual and challenging material in exciting ways.

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