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Stockholm

Bryony Lavery
Frantic Assembly
Hampstead Theatre
(2008)

Production photo

Stockholm is a classic example of how tremendous production qualities can mask the relative inconsequentiality of a simple plot.

Todd and Kali, played by Samuel James and Georgina Lamb are a beautiful couple who seemed to have everything going for them. Love, intelligencer and affluence are present in abundance and the only minor cloud on the horizon is Todd's mummy, who doesn't like his blonde-haired partner.

What looks like a studio production manages to fill the large Hampstead stage space thanks to the ingenuity of ace designer, Laura Hopkins, whose work will be seen in the English capital again next month when Black Watch finally arrives here.

She creates a clever revolving set with, on one side, a staircase revealing hidden surprises and, on the other a kitchen that looks to have all mod cons but is somewhat sinister, with over thirty knives arrayed along its back wall. These areas are then supplemented by a couple of offshoots including a desk that is not all that it seems.

The couple narrate their own story on the occasion of Todd's birthday, taking us back to their first meeting and into their minds, which can be somewhat disconcerting.

For the first hour of the 75 minute play, they show each other and us just how much they are in love and at times, this becomes pretty steamy as directors and choreographers, Scott Graham and Stephen Hoggett, allow the lovers' inner feelings to be manifested through some really beautiful dance and physical movement.

Just when it appears that Stockholm is going nowhere, Kali's retro-jealousy, already hinted at, comes to the fore with dramatic results. For some reason, those beautiful knives almost all remain in place but the mental and physical conflict is superbly realised by both actors and their choreographers.

By the end, in a suspended, almost vertical bed, possibly in Stockholm, although the city is more a place of happiness and refuge in their minds than a reality, the pair kiss and make up. However, there are intimations that this love affair may not lead to a happy ever after.

The creative team have gone overboard to make this a special event and receive tremendous support from both actors who are also talented dancers. There is though a suspicion that despite some tender moments, without the team's stage skills this play might be revealed as a case of the Emperor's new clothes.

This production was reviewed by Allison Vale in Plymouth and by Ray Brown in Leeds

Reviewer: Philip Fisher