Monday, 13 April 2009


10/04/09, Almeida

1hr 40mins approx, no interval. A last minute booking for Good Friday. Toby Jones in Jez Butterworth's latest, with Andrew Lincoln and Amanda Drew. Well reviewed.

We liked it. Butterworth owes a lot to Pinter (though, as S said, he is kinder to his characters). There's the same air of unspoken menace; the same exchanges between characters that never quite connect; the same exaggerated fascination with the mannerisms of ordinary speech.

Ned is a demolition expert living in a new housing estate with a view of the motorway. Dale, with his shorts, gold chain and unbuttoned check shirt, is his neighbour, who made his money from a chain of carwashes employing 40 Kosovans. Joy is Ned's sexually frustrated wife.

It was full of nice ideas. Ned and wife play "sexy Scrabble" ("If you can spell it you can have it... I once scored 45 for 'blow-job' on a triple word score"). Ned is a hoarder whose things keep disappearing, despite his best endeavours: he's put a padlock on the garden shed but someone's chiselled it off, cutting themselves in the process... his wife's stuff is still there but the lawnmower's gone. He tells this to his wife who has a plaster on her finger because she claims she cut herself slicing six dozen lemons for lemonade.

Ned seems to know his troubles, imagined or real, reflect the fact that his marriage is in trouble, but seems unable to discuss it with Joy. His responses are indirect. He tries to get fit (cue very funny mime with barbells and weights). He listens to a tape of advice on sexual technique (cue another very funny mime trying to follow the instructions for oral sex). Jones is a brilliant clown and carries this off brilliantly, but they seem to belong to another play, not the slightly surreal, skewed world reflected in most of the dialogue.

Amanda Drew powerfully sexy as the wife, who seduces an uncertain Dale; Andrew Lincoln roguishly engaging as the neighbour, who narrates.

The set a flat translucent back wall, onto which images are projected (note: every play we've seen lately seems to come with video projections; very good they are too and, as A said afterwards, cheap). The wall revolves to reveal two segments behind. Just before each revolve the set behind the wall lights up to show a bed or a sofa.

At the end Ned appears to smother Joy in bed behind the wall (though there seemed to be more than one ending, with Joy appearing on stage immediately after her "murder", leaving me rather muddled as to how much of this was dream/nightmare/fantasy and how much "real").

Afterwards in the bar, where we repaired to discuss tickets for the Edinburgh Festival, there was a Pinteresque moment of confusion. D thought the man at the next table was an actor, George Layton, who used to be in Doctor in the House. Toby Jones was talking to him. As we were leaving Layton recognised me. We established who I was. Then he introduced himself. I left, but behind me A was telling Toby Jones how much she'd enjoyed the show. D asked Jones if the man was Layton. Jones said "No". But it was: I've checked his website.

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