Tag Archives: Jack McNamara

New Perspectives Theatre

Never short of novelty, the coronavirus lockdown has seen theatre makers more inventive than ever. New productions, such as those from The Original Theatre Company, and plenty of podcasts, such as Seeds, might have been expected. But there have also been installations, at the Donmar, and numerous live streams embracing Zoom. And here’s a particularly fun example of embracing technology from East Midlands-based company New Perspectives – the first drama I’ve come across on WhatsApp.

Stay Safe

Billed as a treat for Halloween, the scenario is simple. We are given access to a WhatsApp group for parents whose children go to the same school, one of whom asks about an unknown Mr Mathers that their child has been talking to!

As the story progresses, trying to track this character down, it has to be admitted that the content isn’t original. The piece is working within a genre after all. But it works well. If the twists aren’t unexpected, they manage to raise a smile.

A little spoiler as an example…that it turns out you and the group might be fooled about who is really texting isn’t a huge surprise. But it is an effective use of the format and a smart point; seeding suspicion and menace as well as raising the issue of online security.

Is it scary? So, so…I confess I didn’t want to watch the video clips in case I saw something! But more impressive is Jack McNamara’s writing for this novel format. ‘Eavesdropping’ on a group who aren’t quite friends proves funny. And McNamara turns the action dark and tense with ease. The characters, especially Phil and Meena, become clear and distinct. Correcting their mistakes or faux pas and using emoticons builds up personalities with surprising success.

It is traditional writing skills that really make Stay Safe a success and, as an experience, it’s engrossing and easy to recommend.

More from New Perspectives

There are more good ideas, too, with an eye on festive presents for theatre lovers. New Perspectives has worked with six renowned theatre names to produce limited edition Christmas cards that “reimagine traditional yuletide messages”. And their ‘show’ from earlier this year, Love from Cleethorpes, will also be available again – another different format for drama, this time a play on a series of postcards!

www.newperspectives.co.uk

"Love-Lies-Bleeding" at the Print Room

While Don DeLillo’s status as a Great American Novelist, with all those capital letters, is seldom questioned, his work as a playwright is less well known. If this turgid effort, receiving a UK premiere, is anything to go by, that might be best for the great man’s reputation.
The scenario is thin from the start and not developed – a great artist being euthanised by his family after a stroke reduces him to a persistent vegetative state. It’s an important subject, increasingly urgent in our society, but DeLillo adds nothing to the debate. Instead we get recollections of marriage and art that may be of interest, but only if you happen to be an East Coast intellectual. Both niche and unenlightening, it ends up boring.

Clara Indrani and Jack Wilkinson

The characters are well acted but too solipsistic to care about. The charisma needed for the lead comes entirely from Joe McGann’s performance. It’s too hard to credit that others are “clustered” around to support his character’s passing. Josie Lawrence is always watchable as his ex-wife and even manages to inject some humour. Jack Wilkinson takes the part of the son, Sean, and he deals with slowly revealed mixed motives and anger well. But nothing can save incredulity when it comes to the fumbled efforts with morphine; surely you’d read your Google printouts before overdosing your father? The current wife and carer, played admirably by Clara Indrani, has the only part with real emotion. But her role is hampered by some new age sentiment that needs further explication to stop it being nonsensical. When she requests, “Let’s not analyse”, she seems to be in the wrong play.
And these guys talk. Convoluted sentences make up a dense and unbelievable dialogue that ends up a drone. Even at 90 minutes it’s clear some editing is needed, as is energy – director Jack McNamara seems overawed by DeLillo’s text. An effort is made with an expensive set from Lily Arnold – there’s some movement at least – but static scenes drag despite their brevity. Worst of all, nearly every line, no matter how unoriginal or even silly, is presented as profound. It’s an approach that kills the script and hampers the performers. The script is bludgeoned, the performances strangled and the play ends up dead.
Until 8 December 2018
www.the-print-room.org
Photos by Tristram Kenton