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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Garrick Theatre Spring 2007

Treats is totally unnecessary.

It has no redeeming social significance, entertainment value or literary merit. It doesn't even offer the guilty pleasure of being really bad.

It just lies there, taking up space, like the bad TV sitcom that's scheduled between two other shows you want to watch.

Part of the problem lies in Christopher Hampton's slightly updated 1976 script, which tells a cliched story in cliched terms - girl is torn between bad boy and nice boy.

Part of the problem lies in Hampton's unsuccessful attempts at Noel Coward brittle wit (always a bad idea, unless you're Coward) and Ayckbourn-like darker undertones to the comedy (always a bad idea, unless you're Ayckbourn).

Part of the problem lies in director Laurence Boswell's lacklustre direction and misjudged casting, so that characters who are supposed to be passionately bound to each other or violently angry at each other generate absolutely no heat or chemistry.

And part of the problem lies in the fact that at least two of the three actors (ironically, the two who the gossip columns tell us are romantically involved) are simply bad.

In a programme note - always a dangerous sign, since it's a virtual confession that he hasn't said it in the play - Hampton says the core of the play lies in the sad irony that, a century after Ibsen's Nora, some women still can't imagine life without a man.

His heroine in Treats has a choice of two men who are each clearly wrong for her, or being on her own, and she chooses the worse of the two in what, since this is a comedy, is meant to be some sort of happy ending.

Why feminist groups aren't picketing the theatre is beyond me.

As the bad boy, Kris Marshall generates a little bit of energy by at least trying to toss out lines that are meant to be witty zingers.

As the wimp, Laurence Fox has clearly been directed to wait for a count of ten after every cue, to suggest the guy is so lost inside himself that it takes forever for words or thoughts to surface, though I don't know him well enough to tell whether sounding like he has a chronically stuffed nose is natural or part of the characterisation.

At the centre, Billie Piper (of Doctor Who a couple of seasons back, but best known for being, in turn, the girlfriend of two or three C-list celebrities) is a total blank.

She doesn't forget her lines or bump into the scenery, but she also gives no sense that this girl has ever met either of the guys, much less that she can't live without one or the other.

At what is clearly meant to be the play's crisis moment, she is alone onstage and breaks down and sobs in front of the television set. I found myself watching the TV.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Treats - Garrick Theatre 2007

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