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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Adult Supervision
Park Theatre Autumn 2013

Sarah Rutherford's drama is earnest, sincere and clumsy – like many first plays, more to be admired for its ambition and its promise of things to come than its actual accomplishment. 

It pretty much gets where it's going eventually, but keeps getting in its own way too much to be successful. 

The play's basic problem is that it is theme-driven, its story, characters and context manipulated to illustrate points rather than growing out of a sense of reality. The basic question of any play – why are these people in this room and why are they saying these things? – is too infrequently answered 'because they would' and too often 'because the playwright wants those things said'. 

Rutherford's theme is race, and the degree to which that remains a minefield even for those one might expect to be most enlightened and successfully dealing with its issues. 

On the 2008 night of Barak Obama's election in the US, four women gather in an upscale London home to watch the returns. Their common thread is children of colour – a white woman married to a black man, a black woman married to a white man, a white woman who has adopted African children, and a token all-vanilla woman. 

While you might expect the early small talk to touch on school fees or neighbourhood gossip, Rutherford has them jump right into the subject at hand, embarrassing gaffes giving way to cattiness and then to open argument and criticism of each other's marriages, child-rearing philosophies and competing senses of themselves as more racially advanced or politically correct than the others. 

Important things do get said about how those trying hardest to do what is right are constantly measuring themselves against shifting standards and about how individual frailties can interfere with high intentions. But Rutherford hasn't mastered the skill of embodying these ideas in a believable and consistent story and reality. 

The one-of-each structure of the group is a bit too obvious, like those American Second World War movies in which every platoon had one guy from Texas, one from Brooklyn and so on, while the American election, which they keep forgetting about, is too nakedly just a symbol of the racial topic at hand.

The hostess so tightly strung that she tough-loves her children to the edge of abuse and bullies her guests like a modern version of Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party, the good-time girl who reveals herself to have the deepest emotional and moral sense, and the one with so little confidence and self-esteem that she invites abuse are all artificial constructs just this side of clich

An unlikely game of Truth Or Dare is introduced just to raise the tension, while one woman will verbally attack another without warning just so the playwright can get something said. 

You can set your watch by the regularity at which they will take turns delivering monologues of confession or self-exposure, and you get no points if you're actually surprised by the revelations that one of them is having a marriage-threatening affair and another's man will be exposed as a racist. 

Given that the characters were created as types and mouthpieces for the playwright, director Jez Bond and his cast work hard to flesh them out believably, Amy Robbins as the surprisingly deep party girl and Jacqueline Boatswain as the alternately annoyed and bemused black woman more successful than Susannah Doyle as the hostess and Olivia Poulet as the insecure one.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Adult Supervision - Park Theatre 2013  

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