Saturday, 13 March 2010

Review: Six Degrees of Separation, Old Vic, 10 March 2010

photo by Martin Pope

I rather like how the brilliant Aleks Sierz calls this play "insubstantial" in his review because what I felt when I came out of the Old Vic theatre after this matinee was absolute numbness. I had wasted my time with this - fortunately not my money, as the tickets were free.

The story of con-man Paul and his upper class victims in their hollow lives of money and conventions won the Olivier award in 1993 and as I read this fact in the shiny but pricey programme I wondered if 1992 had been a particularly bad year in the British theatre or if the Oliviers have always as nonesensical as in recent years. Maybe I am being injustifiably cruel: Six Degrees of Separation is not a bad play. It is not, in my opinion, a good play either.

Everything about the play just sounded bland and unsubtle. It had the makings of a great play but ultimately no punch to it. And this was not because of the production - although it is a very forgetteable one - but because of the writing. Neither the plot or the themes seemed to grab my attention and the characters were not engaging, hard as they tried. Only Lesley Manville and her natural brilliance, made me sympatize a bit with her Ouisa but at the same time it made me wonder about what a waste her performance was, wishing I was back at National seeing Her Naked Skin. Everybody else was bland, and the only funny and truthful moments came when the teenage sons and daughters of the lead characters were on stage, hilariously grumpy and clich├ęd to the point where one can't help but fondness for the kids. Paul had some interest as a character, if only a more charming actor than Obi Abili had played him. One can imagine that in the play's debut at the Royal Court things were a lot different, they had Adrian Lester then. Like Phil from the Whingers I found these people and the play oddly irritating.

In short, a morning wasted but at least I hadn't paid for it so I came out shrugging rather than in a bitter fit.

Other reviews:
The Telegraph.
The Times.
West End Whingers.
The Stage.
The Guardian.
Interval Drinks.
The Independent.

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