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Some Voices

Joe Penhall
Young Vic Studio
(2004)

Joe Penhall is clearly at his best when he writes about young men suffering from schizophrenia. He won several awards for Blue/Orange, a success at the National Theatre and in the West End that then travelled to New York.

Some Voices started off at the Royal Court ten years ago and was then transferred to the screen by Film Four starring Daniel Craig and Kelly Macdonald.

While the central figure in Some Voices, Ray, suffers from a similar malady to Christopher in the later play, in other ways he could not be more different. He is very convincingly portrayed in the capable hands of the writer, director Matthew Dunster and excellent, wild-eyed actor Tom Brooke.

The production is greatly assisted by a set designed by Anna Fleischie that centres on an infinitely adaptable geometric screen that both looks good and speeds the action. It demonstrates the designer's great talent and ensures that many changes can take place in a very small space with remarkable ease.

Ray and his friend Ives are part of that shadowy society that is encapsulated by the terrifying term "Care-in-the-Community". They are mentally ill and at times can appear totally lucid but still need the support that only long-term care in an institution can offer.

The play follows Ray's time after he is released from a mental hospital into the care of his restaurateur brother (Daniel Cerqueira as Pete). The relationship between the brothers becomes increasingly strained as Ray follows his late father's sad path into drink and madness ultimately hearing the voices of the title.

He is though, lucky enough to find some true happiness in the arms of the almost equally damaged Laura. Dorothy Duffy occasionally does not look quite at home as the insecure Northern Irishwoman in the grip of her violent lover Dave, played by the suitably maniacal Louis Dempsey.

This is a very touching investigation into the problems of the most vulnerable members of society and it is amazing that such a mature effort was Penhall's first play. He is a writer who has highs and lows but this is very much one of the highlights of his career and a worthy progenitor of Blue/Orange.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher