The Price of Everything
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
The publicity for The Price of Everything suggests that the play is a thriller ("tense and thrilling" are the words used) but if that suggests to you (as it did to me) something of the Wait Until Dark variety, then you are being misled. Although, to be fair, it is rather that you are misleading yourself, pigeon-holing the play before seeing it..
We are in the expensive home of businessman Eddie Carver (Andrew Dunn), his wife Pam (Julie Riley) and daughter Ruby (Jodie Comer). They want for nothing - Ruby has her ponies, they drink champagne like lemonade, the idea of a sudden and unexpected holiday does not phase Pam or Ruby - and they are well protected from danger from without by high walls and a state-of-the-art secuity system. But is not all sweetness and light: Ruby is exhibiting signs of teenage rebellion, Pam is worried that Eddie's gambling habit might be starting up again or that he might even be having an affair. And then a man is seen outside and the phone stops working... And why does Eddie rip the intercom off the wall when Ruby's friend Tamsin calls?
Tensions within. A stanger without. An increasing feeling of unease undermining the apparent domestic bliss of the opening. Classic thriller ingredients.
To reveal more would be a real spoiler and that is not the job of the critic. Suffice it to say that the play is both "tense and thrilling" and Fiona Evans is not a writer to go for the predictable, so that the ending - and it is shocking, even horrific - is far from what the first half would lead us to expect. Looking back, we can see the clues which Evans has carefully placed throughout, but, in the best thriller tradition, they are ambiguous. After the interval I did begin to suspect what was going on but there was always a degree of uncertainty right up to the end.
At first I was tempted to use the phrase "a psychological thriller" but, as well as being rather overworked, it isn't quite accurate. Evans doesn't try to get inside the heads of the protagonists: she is rather the detached observer, showing us what happened, but - in retrospect again - she loads many of the most simple things her characters say with an almost unbearable irony.
The audience was engrossed throughout and the end of the play was met with stunned silence before the applause broke out.
And it was well deserved applause too, not just for the play but for the actors and the whole creative team which consisted of director Noreen Kershaw, designer Tim Meacock, lighting designer Jim Simmons and film-maker and editor Martin Belderson whose work with the 21 Stephen Joseph outreach community actors added so much.
Running until 13th November
Reviewer: Peter Lathan