The Fear

Ben Clare
Lifelike Theatre
New Wimbledon Studio
(2009)

Production photo

The subject of identity has long been a popular one in theatre and Ben Clare's new play tackles the current political viewpoints on identity cards with passion but unfortunately not pace. This three hander centres around the character of a journalist named Jane (Stephanie Taylor) who receives a mysterious letter from the government's anomaly department demanding she attend a meeting with the mysterious Mr Murphy (Stephen Agnew) and his ditzy secretary Kelly (Emma Lawrence).

This is a play packed with intelligent ideas regarding privacy, the opinions of the government versus the people and freedom of information. Using the column that Jane writes as starting point, Murphy builds a picture of her life and demonstrates how much information she gives away about herself freely, also arguing how damaging her opinions can become when followed by a dedicated readership. Points are made about the bias of the press and how comments can be warped when quoted out of context. Conversely Jane attacks the system that doesn't trust the average person to think for themselves and has become passive looking for problems rather than looking at methods of solving them. She despairs of the average person who doesn't care about such matters and the "way we live now" (the name of her column).

Billed as a dark comedy, the script certainly had many moments of humour, mainly created through Jane's frustration and the not so secret relationship between Kelly and Mr Murphy. However, once the scene was set with Jane sitting stage right of a table, Murphy stage left and Kelly behind little changed and there was not enough tension created to carry the audience much past the hour mark. The script began to resemble a debate and whilst the arguments were logical, the repetition of ideas lost some of their power and impact.

The cast, however, brought appropriate sincerity to the roles and Taylor's portrayal of both Jane's frustration and curiosity was a particular highlight as she moved from polite, through bemused and into indignant and angry. Agnew fitted the cheery but slightly sinister Murphy well and Lawrence's comic naïveté helped to emphasise the bizarre undertones of the situation.

The dark humour of this production certainly complimented the seriousness of the arguments of the piece but with such dense dialogue and largely unsympathetic characters the plot functioned more as a debate than a theatrical story making for a thought provoking evening of politics rather than theatre.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston