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Posted by : Mark-Courtice on Feb 07, 2009 - 02:16 AM Archive
Newbury.

Life X 3
by Yasmina Reza translated by Christopher Hampton.

Watermill Theatre To 28 February 2009.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm except 28 February 1.30pm & 6.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 01635 46044.
www.watermill.org.uk
Review: Mark Courtice 4 February.

Once would have been enough.

Henri and Inès are settling down to a quiet evening at home (or at least as quiet as it gets with a grizzling six year old, and a marriage based on low level squabbling), when Hubert and Sonia turn up for dinner a day early. With nothing to eat except chocolate fingers and Cheesy Wotsits, tension levels reach the heights because Hubert (bearer of the devastating news that Henri’s long delayed and recently completed academic article has been pre-empted by some Brazilians) is the one who can recommend Henri for promotion; and Sonia, fired up with Sancerre, can be devastatingly indiscreet in her cups.

Yasmina Reza’s play works through the resulting social, sexual and professional embarrassments and then re-runs it all again - twice more. In each iteration things shift slightly – the child more or less fractious, Henri more or less needy, Hubert more or less creepy and Sonia more or less pissed.

Despite a clever cast and clear direction driving an energetic and committed production, this tale of middle-class angst and ambition palls, so it isn’t long before the audience begins to think that everyone else is having more fun than them in this somewhat over-neat joke.

Francis O’Connor’s antiseptic set, all concrete walls and white Mies van der Rohe chairs, provides harsh surfaces and slightly skew-whiff angles, apt for a play with an impenetrable surface; and many of the actors’ performances skitter around on the surface too. By the third time around, even the admirable Sara Crowe is reduced to sounding like a recitation.

Director Sarah Esdaile appears to have decided that this is West End fluff, and therefore loud voices and facing front will get us through, and she may be right. Anything more complicated will not be rewarded by a play that would like to be Ayckbourn but only has the surface tricks without the deeper complications.


Sonia: Sarah Ball.
Inès: Sara Crowe.
Hubert: Christopher Villiers.
Henri: James Wallace.

Director: Sarah Esdaile.
Designer: Francis O’Connor.
Lighting: Aideen Malone.
Sound/Music: Simon Slater.
 
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