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Posted by : TimothyRamsden on Jan 02, 2013 - 02:02 PM Archive

by Louise Monaghan.

Finborough Theatre 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 22 December 2012.
Tue-Sat 8.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr). (no booking fee by ‘phone or online).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 December.

Interesting ideas needing more dramatic development.

This 2012 prize-winning play might, a few surface features apart, have come from the 1970s/80s. The far-Right is an offstage presence, and it would only need the substitution of ‘National Front’ for ‘BNP’ on the poster strangely allowed in the Community Centre where Pack takes place, to take things back. The four women regularly meeting to learn Bridge would doubtless have been arriving late or leaving early, in the opening scenes anyway, making comments about ‘getting his tea’ or suchlike. But the all-female group overcoming fears and prejudices to gain strength from each other remains recognisable from back then.

Though the Community Centre room would have been untidier, perfectly representing somewhere for local people to emerge from under the shadow of tradition and class. Nowadays, in reality, it wouldn’t be long before concern over the Centre’s future, cuts in council grants and self-financing classes arose.

Author Louise Monaghan has other concerns, and sticks to them. Her centre’s in a part of Leeds where different social groups can meet, her characters ranging between smart doctor Nasreen and supermarket assistant Steph. Established friendship is challenged and secrets kept as racial violence involving members of some of the women’s families are discussed. It’s a decent approach to the issue through a specific place, though without the detail and dramatic conflict Anders Lustgarten’s A Day at the Racists brought to the Finborough in 2010.

It’s doubtful Bridge players will find much here; Monahan’s short scenes provide little evidence Dianna does much tuition. For the characters – Dianna especially – are mouthpieces for ideas the writer wants discussed rather than fully-imagined characters, something reflected in Denise Black’s efficient impersonation that never ceases to be clearly an actor at work.

It’s less so with the others, but the players all work hard to make their characters seem more than wafer-thin. Which would not matter so much if the debate were deeper and more original. But there’s little, if anything, here that goes beyond a fairly general magazine article on the issue, while the scenes chug contentedly along, each making it’s point before moving on, over-conveniently, to the next.

Deb: Angela Lonsdale.
Stephie: Sarah Smart.
Dianna: Denise Black.
Nasreen: Amita Dhiri.

Director: Louise Hill.
Designer: Olivia Altaras.
Lighting: Neill Brinkworth.
Sound: Paul Gavin.
Composer: Craig Adams.
Costume: Sarah Vigars.
Vocal coach: Patricia Logue.
Associate lighting: Miguel Vicente.
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