Dick Curran
Farne Productions
Live Theatre Studio, Newcastle

Neil Armstrong, Dylan Mortimer and Jill Dellow in Company

I saw the first production of Company in the intimate space of the Low Lights pub in North Shields in May last year and described it as “almost surreal in places”. It has been substantially rewritten for a short North East tour and, whilst retaining the dark comedy “feel” of the original, it is now more of a domestic drama.

The situation, of course, remains the same: Mike and Ross are work colleagues in a company where redundancies are about to happen. Ross (Dylan Mortimer), whose wife, who is something of a nymphomaniac, has just thrown him out, has influence over who will survive these redundancies and so Mike (Neil Armstrong) has invited him to an evening at his home, ostensibly to cheer him up but also to try to secure his own position.

Mike’s wife Dawn (Jill Dellow) has a crisis of her own at work to deal with and is about to meet with a colleague in an attempt to sort that out but Mike insists that she stay at home to help entertain Ross.

The big change in this version is the widening of the focus of the piece: where previously it was on Ross, here his surreally manic behaviour has been toned down and more attention is given to how the situation affects Mike and Dawn, illuminating the cracks in their relationship. Some of the comedy, therefore, is lost but the play has become more layered and deeper in its exploration of not one but two marriages—fewer laughs but more seriousness.

And that, I think, is a good thing: the new version’s impact will be longer lasting, for not only does it leave the audience with more to think about but, more importantly, it makes a greater emotional connection.

The characters are more deeply drawn, too. Whilst there is still a touch of the manic about Ross it is underpinned by calculation and Mike and Dawn have stronger backstories and therefore greater depth.

It’s a very strong cast, a true ensemble with each truly inhabiting their characters.

The last night is, I understand, sold out but the play tours to the Berkeley Tavern in Whitley Bay (23rd June), the Customs House in South Shields (24th and 25th), Arts Centre Washington (27th), Infinity, Sunderland (28th), Ballarat Studios, North Shields (29th) and The Maltings, Berwick (30th).

Reviewer: Peter Lathan

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