THEATRE REVIEW: An Unseasonable Fall of Snow
Galvinised Productions first foray into theatre has 'audience members audibly gasping'
Well I wasn’t expecting much. How’s that for questing journalistic curiosity? But really, a play I’ve never heard of, in a theatre I’ve never heard of, put on by a first time production company with a novice director. How good was it going to be? Surprisingly, it was very good indeed.
The Southbank Playhouse is itself a surprise – a utilitarian slab of concrete, tucked away off Sunnyside Road. It’s like something from another time; one of those ad-hoc, Saturday morning matinee cinemas that I remember from my childhood; the taste of Kia-Ora and a pinged peanut in the back of the neck. It is magnificently functional and perfect in its simplicity: a single set of rising steps in front of the flat performance space.
The set is also simple – two doors, two chairs, a table, a lever-arch file and a plain Manila envelope. In one of the chairs sits a large, ursine man with glasses perched on the end of his nose. Through one of the doors another man enters. He is slight and nervous, wrapped up in a duffle coat. He takes his place in the seat opposite the older man and a baffled dialogue begins. It seems at first like a police interview or a lawyer with his client but quickly the interrogation takes on a sinister mien
'This is not a duel,' says the bigger man, 'Work with me.'
Indeed, it seems at times less like a duel than a cudgelling, as the big man, Arthur (Darren Bingham), works away at the smaller man, Liam (Michael King), with escalating aggression. There has been a crime: the murder of a William Holly on the way home from a night club, and Liam’s foot-prints through the titular snowfall, place him squarely at the scene of the crime. But as Arthur jabs away, the story begins to unravel, certainties are quashed and the balance of power tips back and forth in an ethical tug of war.
That’s where I’m going to leave the plot. Writer Gary Henderson's play is a tightly sprung mechanism, relying on two or three moments of game-changing revelation which have audience members audibly gasping. Rugs are whipped from beneath you throughout the course of this oddly old-fashioned play as the evidence stacks up.
And it is old-fashioned, with a sort of craftsman’s neatness, a pat polish. It’s like a cross between Rod Serling and Huis Clos, if that isn’t rather giving the game away. It's old-fashioned too in its depiction of computer software fraud, perhaps the play’s major flaw: hackers are protean. The crimes depicted here seem as antediluvian as a smash and grab artist sticking his elbow through a window and making off with a sack marked 'swag'.
Darren Bingham, as aggressive interlocutor Arthur, has a difficult job to do and handles it manfully. His motives for interrogative fervour are rounded out beautifully and one scene, where he explodes into, actually quite shocking, violence, is sign-posted for about ten minutes before hand by the casual removal of his jacket, the rolling up of sleeves: a clever piece of work by neophyte director Tomas Bamford, and beautifully envisioned by Bingham.
But it’s Michael King’s Liam that steals the show. From the moment we see him hesitantly enter the room, it’s a master class in suggestive body language. Liam’s limbs curl under him, all angles, like a collapsing deck-chair. As the play goes on we see him inhabit almost every emotional state and he does so with ease and sophistication. He is superb.
The play is slightly too long, with rather too much exposition in the second half, which briefly dampens the energy. But these are minor quibbles in a production which is far better than it has any right to be. This is Galvanised Productions first foray. I look forward to their second.