Above The Stag Theatre
As the sun starts to shine over London, the seaside comes to town in this new play by Alex Flori. Whereas for most people a life strolling along the strand and building sandcastles may be just what the doctor ordered, for Oscar it is hell.
Everyday the same routine: get up, sit down, look out at sea, eat tinned puddings. Flori has obviously been strongly influenced by Beckett, but there is also something Chekhovian about Oscar's World, ghosting Three Sisters just as much as Waiting for Godot: three central characters talk of leaving, but never do, even though the means to do so exist.
Although the first act would benefit greatly from some cuts, Oscar's World is an impressive debut from French born playwright Flori with many clever and insightful nuances in the text. Lines such as 'Sometimes I think death would be better than all this' could have been written by either Beckett or Chekhov themselves and the end of the play leaves the audience to ponder the question of whether contentedness ever exists?
Carol Robb (Rose), Peter Saracen (Nono) and Steven Serlin (Oscar) never quite manage to convey their relationship convincingly as the family unit washed ashore years ago. Flori has peppered his script with some wonderful innuendo and Robb and Saracen would do well to play with these more. As the ever increasing in size Rose, Robb does her best to keep the lagging pace of the production up, but fails as reflective pauses drag on and on. It also seems to be the case that there are still some line issues, which may contribute to the lack of rhythm and energy in the production and that the characterisation still has some way to go as the cast take time to settle into their roles.
The second act is much stronger than the first, helped by a considerably more effective lighting plot with a range of states and washes evoking much needed atmosphere lacking in the first half's quasi-house lights up state. The acting also improves as the characters age and become more grotesque and eccentric, with death lurking in the sea breeze.
The constant track of waves crashing, wind howling and the odd seagull call becomes distracting at times and is not needed to create the illusion of the seaside; the set of beach huts, deckchairs and real sand alone transports the audience to the coast. Scene changes need to be quicker and attention to detail in such an intimate venue also needs addressing in that the inside of Nono's door was not painted, visible to the audience when swung open for a period of time.
Above The Stag is very lucky to have found such a gem in Oscar's World and with a few tweaks here and there the production could spring to life and begin a great theatrical career for Flori.
Playing until 1st May 2010
Reviewer: Simon Sladen