7 June 2013

Seven Year Twitch at the Orange Tree (fabulous)

Seven Year Twitch at the Orange Tree was fabulous and was exactly the sort of play in exactly the sort of theatre that I love.

The story is complex and some effort is required to follow the intertwined lives of two therapists, three of their clients and some other friends and relations.

This effort is doubly rewarded as the complexity is part of the fun and it creates situations that are exploited brilliantly for both comic and dramatic value.

The main clients are a husband and wife going through a minor crisis. She is fed-up with his birding (hence the twitch in the title) and is unsure of what he wants and is also tempted to stray, but for different reasons. There is something in their shared past that drives this division.

The plot twists and turns unexpectedly as we are catapulted from one scene to another, sometimes this happens so quickly that the scenes overlap. They also repeat.

The therapist sessions guide the story. They are the constant chronology from which we dip in to various times in the past.

It's a simple technique that works very well. The conversation starts in the present and recalls something from the past, the play then jumps to that past while the characters in the present watch before coming back to the present.

The two therapists are brilliant guides. Megan (Lucy Tregear) is attentive and measured while Charlie (Paul Kemp) bounces around and is always on the edge of losing it but retains his training and argues rowdily and intelligently at the same time.

The rest of the cast are good too but it is the therapists around which it all hangs, even though they are (mostly) passive voyeurs of other people's stories.

The play descends into near-farce at one point but even when the humour is dominant the other moods and emotions never go away and there is so much to savour while trying to control your laughter.

The set remains the same throughout with four identical chairs and tables in each corner. This arrangement becomes a sequence of different rooms that the characters move through. Another simple idea that works brilliantly.

There is an ending of sorts though I never expected any of the complicated life situations to neatly resolve themselves.

Nor would I have wanted that as that would be an over-contrived ending conjured up just to create an ending where one was not needed.

The ending that does come is the one formulaic part of the play and, having seen it coming, I was first in with the rapturous applause.

Seven Year Twitch is a brilliant sequence of awkward and funny moments that show that even therapists have problems that are hard to deal with.

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