19 June 2010

Tense double-bill at The Orange Tree

The Orange Tree season ended with a double bill of tense dramas, one old and one new.

Opening the show is the new play, Tom's A-Cold by David Egan.

Here we meet two men from a failed polar expedition sitting in a lifeboat, ravaged by hunger and haunted by their memories.

The story of how they got there and what happened to the fellow travellers slowly unfolds. Gradually the gruesome story of cannibalism emerges.

Before that we are shown aspects of their lives back in distant England, their hopes for the future and how, with just two of them left, rank and class are still important.

The play takes a further twist when one suddenly asks the other, "Why did you eat me?", and the situation is exposed as a fantasy.

And also a mystery as having had one premise overthrown we are then left to doubt the reality of anything we have seen or head.

While the subject matter is tense and gloomy, and the portrayal gritty and raw, there is, somehow, a positive feel to the play and I emerged invigorated rather than despondent.

Perhaps that's just me, I found the ending of Billy Budd happy too :-)

After the beer break, or "interval" as the luvvies like to call it, we went forward in time in a older play. Joe Orton's The Ruffian on the Stair (his first play) is set in 1960's London.

Joyce is in the flat alone during the day while her partner, Mike, goes off to do things when a stranger, behaving strangely, knocks on the door and reveals that he knows some of the mysteries in Mike's life, mysteries that Joyce was unaware of.

One of them is that Mike murdered the stranger's brother in what have may have been, in today's parlance, a contract killing or an inter-gang dispute.

The stranger is scary, Joyce is scared and Mike pays little heed to her until the stranger forces his hand and the play reaches its dramatic, if expected, conclusion.

Despite the violence and the language, this was the lighter of the two plays and it was also the more traditional in that it had an ending but, for me, Tom's A-Cold was the more satisfying feast.

The Orange Tree Theatre now goes to sleep for the Summer but the excellent season that has just passed means that I'll be queueing up for tickets again in September.

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