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The Theatreguide.London Review

Bush Theatre Summer 2006

Alecky Blythe's new play is a gently comic look at love and lust among the elderly, marred by the fact that she stretches about twenty minutes of good material to four times that length.

The result is alternating delight and ennui, with the frustration that comes from having to sit through too much of the latter for the too-infrequent gems.

This is Verbatim Theatre of an extreme form. Not only is Blythe's text made up entirely of selections from recorded interviews, but the cast listen to the recordings on earphones as they perform, in order to duplicate exactly the original speech patterns and rhythms.

One wonders whether they couldn't have accomplished this without the technical aid - it's called acting - and you're not always sure whether the occasional hiccup or flubbed line is the result of the performers trying to talk over the voices only they can hear.

The main voices are those of Maureen, a comically garrulous 70-something who swings between openness about her own sex life and being the voice of doom about her friends', and Geoff and Margaret, an even older couple whose courtship and wedding gives the evening what little plot structure it has.

It's not enough. Blythe has missed the point about Verbatim Theatre, that it can't be just a selection of the best bits from her collection of interviews, but needs to have some dramatic structure drawn out of the material or imposed on it.

Geoff and Margaret don't even appear until halfway through the evening, and even then are interrupted by digressions often enough that the show plays like a random and rambling string of monologues and encounters, only some of which are as entertaining or insightful as Blythe would wish.

Miranda Hart has fun with Maureen by playing her with an equal deadpan whatever kind of outrageousness is coming out of her mouth. Clair Lichie does what she can with a Margaret whose only character hook seems to be a nervous barking laugh.

Ian Dunn as Goeff and Jason Barnett and the author in some secondary roles are given little to work with and can do little. Matthew Dunster's direction lacks pacing, rhythm or forward momentum.

Gerald Berkowitz

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