Finborough Theatre Autumn 2010
American Noah Haidle's short play is a frequently very moving study in memory and regret that is also a technical experiment that playwright, director and actors in this fringe production skilfully manoeuvre their way through.
A lonely old man is haunted by memories of the losses in his life, particularly his long-dead wife and daughter. Flashbacks take us to these remembered pains, three actors playing the man at ages 28, 58 and 88, and a single actress playing the women in each frame: wife, daughter and carer.
Eventually the two older men enter the scenes that are memories to them, reliving the experience and trying in vain to change things.
Haidle’s most brilliant inspiration is not to take us back to the moments of loss, but to the moments of greatest happiness preceding each loss, far more unbearable to remember and painful for us to watch.
And so we see the couple in their twenties, their marriage not quite steady yet, on the night they finally break through and connect, and go off to conceive their daughter; and the middle-aged widower on the night his daughter pushes him out on a blind date that actually turns out promising but then takes that occasion to leave home herself.
In each case the older men - and we, who have been told what happened next - know that tragedy awaits just a little further down the line.
Director Adam Lenson juggles the reality levels and shifts in tone with elegant ease, and Christopher Harper (age 28), Nicholas Gecks (58) and especially Richard Evans as the old man and Lisa Caruccio Came as the three women draw us fully into their characters and stories.
With its three time frames and counterpointed personalities for the same man, Saturn Returns may remind you of Krapp’s Last Tape.
But of course Haidle is far more sentimental than Beckett would ever allow himself to be - and perhaps far more accessible as a result.
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Review of Saturn Returns - Finborough Theatre 2010