The Theatreguide.London Review
Donmar Theatre Spring 2015
If Closer were a little angrier it could be a strong indictment of the emotional shallowness that passed for love in the 1990s, when Patrick Marber wrote the play, and even today. But Marber can't really work up much more than a disapproving Tut-tut, and even that is somewhat blunted by his inclination to be witty rather than censorious.
So, while Closer paints a picture of a generation who think they're feeling real emotions because they have no idea what real emotions feel like, it would be easy to come away from the play more amused than shaken.
Dan and Alice meet-cute and become a happy couple, and then so do Larry and Anna. But Dan decides he's in love with Anna and the next thing we know Dan and Anna are a couple and the heartbroken Larry is turning to Alice for comfort.
Partners get switched a few more times and by the end everyone is alone but (with one exception that I won't give away) not appreciably worse off, so ultimately meaningless has been the whole adventure.
Marber tells the story with some wit and ironic amusement, so it's never particularly dark or disquieting, and he even manages to make raw obscenity comic. In one notorious scene Dan, for reasons that are never really explained, goes online pretending to be a woman and has a four-letter-word-filled cyber-flirtation with Larry.
At any given moment each of the characters would swear that he or she is truly in love, or at least in lust, but all the easy bed-swapping – in fictional terms several years pass in the course of the play, but it is structured to feel like a matter of weeks – belies this. But Marber is too much an entertainer at heart to let us get too upset about this.
The four actors in this Donmar revival – Rachel Redford, Oliver Chris, Nancy Carroll and Rufus Sewell – also seem inclined to sugarcoat the play, grasping hungrily at all the comic moments and witty lines as if trying to pretend this is a Noel Coward comedy, while director David Leveaux seems more inclined toward Pinter, underlining every line that even hints at deeper import ('Love bores you.' - 'No, it disappoints me.') with Pinteresque pauses.
Closer is ultimately a social comedy with a potentially chilling insight beneath its humour, but you have to find those darker implications for yourself.
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