22 April 2012

Easter at Pentameters

I'm not convinced that doing two plays in a day is a good idea, a gallery and a play seem to work better, though it does have the clear attraction of making the most of the travelling.

And so a few short hours after leaving A Clockwork Orange in Dalston I was in the Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead for Easter, a play by August Strindberg.

In between there had been a walk across Hampstead Heath to Kenwood House, a very nice vegetarian curry at Woodlands and a decent beer at the Horseshoe (conveniently located under the theatre).

Easter gets its (English) name from the time of year it is set in, nothing else.

We discover a small family in a state of some turmoil. The father is in prison for embezzlement, a creditor is circling and is threatening to take everything that the family has, and one of the daughters is struggling to overcome a problem in her past that saw her committed to an asylum.

On the positive side the man of the house (while his father is indisposed) has a fiancée and with Easter comes Spring and the first opportunity of the year to open the windows to the fresh air.

The action takes place over a couple of days as the gloom deepens and the snow eases.

Conveniently is all happens in one room in the family house, which seems to be the default set for the theatre.

The plot is rather Dickensian (though Swedes might call Dickens' stories Strindbergian) with a tale of morality intertwined with a tale of misfortunes.

And, as it would in Dickens, the misfortune is suddenly reversed at then end due to an unexpected benefactor. This is where the morality wins and old debts are repaid.

The resolution is sudden, but not unexpected, and merely provides the happy ending to a story that is about a family coping with misfortune and misadventure and with the pressure as their expected downfall approaches.

The cast were a little uneven in convincing us about their plight and the son's dialogue flowed a little unnaturally but the not-so-mad daughter made up for that with an excellent performance.

Pentameters deserve credit for taking a risk with a play like this and the fact that it did not quite come off is no shame on them, that's what happens with risks. And I'd much rather take that risk with them than take one of the safe options that stuff the west end.

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