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Realism

Anthony Neilson
Soho Theatre
(2011)

Realism production photo

Realism was first presented at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in 2006. This is its English premier and is a slightly altered version to update it. In fact, its author suggests that its third scene should always be updated when remounted, inviting any future producers who have any problems with it to get in touch with him, while also encouraging performers to feel free to change dialogue to make it more local or more personal to the actors.. Indeed this production differs from the published revised script, though it probably remains true to the dramatist's intentions.

It is a zany mixture of the everyday and the surreal. If you are a man facing middle-age who has lived a bit and now find yourself living on your own then you could well feel "This Is Your Life", though actually it is the life of Tim whose second big relationship has ended and who finds himself besieged by friends and family though no one, except an invisible cat, seems to come through his front door. Instead they appear in the strangest places. There is his mate Rocky, for instance, with clever footballer's feet who wakes him up and tries to get him to go out for a drink - except that though he's there, kicking a ball about, in fact he isn't, he is actually on the telephone, a situation that becomes much clearer later.

This play takes us insides Stuart's head to find his mother singing songs from wartime, a girl friend nagging him for scraping burned toast into the sink, a little fellow in a school blazer who pops up everywhere offering advice, one of those awful selling- something telephone callers, even the whole cast of the Black and White Minstrel Show edging their way in. It is poignant, hilariously funny and vigorously performed by Tim Treloar as the deeply depressed Tim, Rocky Marshall as Rocky, Joanna Holden and Barry McCarthy as Mum and Dad, Robyn Addison and Golda Rosheuvel as ex-girl friends and lively Shane Zaza as the ubiquitous Mullet, with the same cast doubling all the other roles. The cast all maintain a strong sense of reality despite the cartoon-like ease with which they make their appearances.

Designer Tom Scutt's set looks like an extremely mundane kitchen but proves full of surprises. Director Steve Marmion, helped by the technical skill of the design and a brilliant sound score, keeps the whole thing bubbling over a non-stop ninety minutes that leave the audience delighted. The play and this production are a real breath of fresh air, making a joke of all those things that get you down even as they empathise with day to day dilemmas and frustrations. It is a joyous celebration that turns depressing truths topsy turvy.

"Realism" is at the Soho Theatre until 9th July 2011

Reviewer: Howard Loxton