Plucker

Alena Smith
NYLon Productions
Southwark Playhouse
(2010)

Plucker is ostensibly the pet parrot of composer Alexis which has been pulling out its feathers since her lover Louis moved into her apartment, but it is not only the parrot that is having a tough time coping with domestic relationships. Alena Smith describes her play as an 'attempt to write an old fashioned farce about a new generation' and indeed it has an element of farce in that there is some awkward information that one of the characters is hoping to keep secret that continually risks being revealed, but this is also a very serious look at contemporary attitudes to relationships through a group of thirty-year-olds (+ or -) who are beginning to feel it is time to settle down.

The most zany thing about them is that composer Alexis is composing an opera on a tiny toy-piano - there is no room for a grand in her apartment - but I couldn't help wondering why she couldn't use an upright or even a synthesiser, especially as she seems to have been working on this piece for years. Partner Louis is a teacher and it is his presence that seems to be upsetting the parrot. Louis is doing all the chores round the place and he is worried that things aren't working out: most importantly for him, they haven't once had sex since he moved in. Alexis meanwhile stayed out the night before with Lee, a lesbian girl who is dying to seduce her - if she hasn't already done so.

Lee - who was involved with Louis ten years earlier, though Alexis doesn't know that - has found a pretext to invite herself round just as an old college mate of Alexis called Julian (who has abandoned art for the money-market) and his upper crust girl-friend Thomasina are about to turn up for dinner.

The guests bring some moonshine with a snake in the bottle that they've bought from a woman who calls it 'truth serum' but one feels the truths that come tumbling out in this play would have come into the open even without it. As the past catches up, the strains in relationships are exposed and they manoeuvre into new positions.

Julian (Paul Westwood) is the only one of these me-generation friends who you feel isn't entirely self-centred. Alexis (Emily Bevan) is pretty insufferable and Thomasina (Juliet Crawford) a bit of a spoilt rich kid. Jamel Rodriguez's playing gains a little more sympathy for Louis and Clare Cordier makes a very strong Lee but, though all of them might make an interesting new face at a party, their interests go no further than their own little worlds.

Like the characters, some of the scenes go on a bit, but the fluidity of the playing and the vitality of Anna G. Jones's production keep one interested in which way the plot will turn next.

Continues until 3rd July 2010

Howard Loxton