Playing for Time
Theatre Royal Studio, York
Previous shows by Changeling Productions have been performed in such diverse venues as Carlisle Cathedral, swimming pools and indoor climbing walls, so it would perhaps be unreasonable to expect anything too conventional from the company.
David Napthine's Playing For Time is based on the relationship between J S Bach (played by the author) and his young patron Prince Leopold (Carl Kennedy). Instead of following the well-worn route of biographical plays, Napthine has used what could have been an interesting device - the drama is interspersed with performances of three sonatas, played by Duncan Brown (harpsichord) and Greg Pullen (Viola da Gamba). Unfortunately there simply isn't enough drama to engage the audience's attention and far too much dialogue that sounds as if it's been lifted straight from the pages of an undistinguished historical novel.
Playing For Time comes across as a concert in costume interrupted by some singularly unhelpful snippets of biographical information. We gather that Bach is living in humble circumstances and Prince Leopold is in failing health, but the lack of any substantial background information about the two men and their milieu is deeply frustrating. Perhaps Napthine assumed that the musical elements of the play would tend to attract well-informed punters, and to be fair the performances of Brown and Pullen are worth the price of admission. Sadly, those of us without an extensive knowledge of eighteenth century German court music will find this odd little work more likely to irritate than enlighten.
Reviewer: J. D. Atkinson