TORN from his role as bread- winner and role model, Tommy is now unemployed. He has a wife and family to support, and they’re eating baked beans on toast four times a week.
Tommy is forced to confront the realities of his new life when his black-sheep brother turns up with a dodgy job offer. With bills and eviction notices literally falling from the ceiling, redundancy is no longer an option. The social realism of the subject matter is not reflected in the play. It’s very stylised, very exaggerated, and devastatingly effective. From hilarity to chilling suspense, Katie Douglas’s script controls the atmosphere in the room precisely. A scene involving a cake in an argument could have been funny if handled badly, but no-one dared laugh.
An overstuffed blue armchair, sitting like a throne in the middle of the stage, is the centrepeice of the fiercely unpretentious staging by director George Perrin.
The actors are positioned like characters in a toy theatre. Still for long periods of time, they move swiftly into new arrangements for each scene. When they do move, it really matters. The rest of the time, the action takes place in the nitty gritty of acting.
The cast play the details of character with finesse. Louise Ludgate and Stewart Porter play Brenda and Tommy, whose marriage is instantly believable and lastingly touching. Their acting is authentic, and Porter in particular feels totally natural in his role.
The dialogue moves in much the same way as the staging, busts of action in between long places of stillness. This is particularly effective at the end. The long speeches are the written-in equivalent of a slow motion shot in a Western when the winning ace is being played.
The play ends on a note of hope, but we do not know if there will be a happy ending. This exploration of the emotional effects of an economic climate where job security is a fantasy asks tough questions, and asks them very well.
Runs until Saturday