The Fetch

Samantha Wright
C Company
Old Red Lion Theatre

Publicity graphic

The Old Red Lion Theatre presents the stage along one long and one short wall. The two walls facing the stage are adorned with terribly formal, upright pews furnished with plush red velvet cushions.

An oval of cream carpet sits at the centre of the stage, upon which are set several white square seats, portraying a modern Ikea clad living room.

A bottle of red wine and a glass sit on a hard ledge, which serves as a table, near the edge of the seating. Images of girls' faces hang on netting suspended from the ceiling from one side of the stage to the other.

The sound of rain lashing down outside indicates the play has started.

The opening scene delivers a strained conversation between Tess (Susan Bracken) and Victor (Royce Cronin) which feels a little uncomfortable as it exposes the voyeurism involved in being part of an audience in this tiny space. The cause of this feeling comes into sharp focus at the delivery of the last line of the play - but more on that later.

Both actors warm up as the play develops and start to deliver more convincing performances after the first few scenes.

The second scene moves back chronologically in time to the return of Lila (also played by Susan Bracken) and Victor to their home after a foreign holiday and Wright continues to use this device of jumping in time to unfold the story.

Both Bracken and Cronin seem easier in the marital relationship with each other compared to the awkward tension of Tess and Victor. Victor looks pretty young but sports a busy beard and glasses presumably to age him - after all Victor and Lila have been married over ten years.

Tess's voice is shrill and slightly overstated, creating the sense that she really is acting. The audience believes they are observing an exchange between two characters, the identity of which they are certain of, but perhaps all is not as it seems.

In a particularly dramatic scene the audience witnesses Victor aggressively assaulting Tess; the immediacy of the stage to the audience makes you feel like you are right up there with the action.

An exchange between the couple in the presence of Officer Tooley (played by Zak Rowlands) presents an interesting perspective with the audience not entirely confident with what and who they are observing communicating. It seems a little confusing until the final punchy line from Victor.

Rowlands effectively plays the youthful police officer, and is believable in his tact and diplomacy in the face of aggressive language from Victor.

Through the device of Tooley's questioning Wright educates the audience in a more complete picture of Lila's personality and history of depression and self harm.

The Fetch is a powerful story depicting lies, insecurity, mistrust and deception and the carnage that ensues from a slightly unhinged exchange between two characters who may not be all they seem.

A twist at the end drives home the strap line of the play: "The truth is always the last place you look". Through The Fetch Wright presents the truth as something elusive, difficult to tie down and place. Without ruining the ending for those who would like to see this play, Wright effectively turns all the assumptions and truths the audience believes they know on their head. It is a jaw dropping moment!

The writing is by far the strongest element of this production. The acting is good but not brilliant, the direction and overall aesthetics are pleasing and the props facilitate the changes in scenes.

Overall a good production that entertains with its twisting plot, in a lovely fringe theatre that is as comfortable as it is cosy.

Until 3rd May

Reviewer: Eva Ritchie

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