For Once

Tim Price
Pentabus Theatre
Traverse, Edinburgh

Geraldine Alexander as April, Patrick Driver as Gordon and Jonathan Smith as Sid

The only problem with this production is the subject matter, which seems too tame for the quality of the performances, the direction and the script. The play is really well created especially the characters, but the tragedy at the heart left me unmoved.

The play is staged in a functional kitchen however the small family is far from functional in the aftermath of a tragic accident. April (Geraldine Alexander), Gordon (Patrick Driver) and their teenage son Sid (Jonathan Smith) speak rarely directly to each other with the dialogue taking the form of Talking Heads-style monologues.

Gordon's story unfolds gradually, Driver creates a complex conflicted character and despite being a far from attractive personality he does garner a little sympathy. His speeches say just the right amount, letting the audience fill in the blanks.

With very little interaction and two very different styles, the cracks in April and Gordon's relationship become clear quite quickly. Alexander's performance was beautiful, a really affectionate portrait of a delightful character and the one with whom one empathises the most as the piece progresses. Her laughter, smiles and other facial expressions were some of the lighter and best moments of the play.

Sid is a teenager made even more sullen and distanced from his parents by grief and Smith manages to be eloquent and yet still convey his age. There is quite a gulf between each of the characters, but Smith really shows the gulf between him and the older characters: his parents and also the other adults he mentions in his monologues.

The set and many of the lines, particularly from Sid, set the play very definitely in the present. In my mind, the play seems dated; the subject matter would have affected me much more a few years ago. Now, though, this middle class tragedy lacks bite and also seems to wilfully ignore the bigger problems facing us today.

Aside from my own dislike of the subject matter, there is a lot to like about the play. The actors are all worthy of praise and Tim Price has given them all equally strong parts to get their teeth into. The playwright should also be praised for the perfect construction and the length at just over an hour suits it well. It packs a lot into a short time and arguably one shouldn't expect bigger things in such a short space of time.

Reviewer: Seth Ewin

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