Friday, 18 January 2008

Review: "The Sea"

(Time for a game of count the cliche, and keeping this short - it’s late and the RZ caught first preview. And one of these days, the RZ will learn to jot down character names - and maybe the Haymarket will learn to put them on the website.)

Watching the Haymarket’s new production of Edward Bond’s The Sea was an experience reminiscent of seeing Terrence McNally’s Deuce last summer on Broadway - a third rate play with a shining lead actress (in the latter’s case, the ever loveable Angela Lansbury). Unfortunately, Eileen Atkins couldn’t save this evening as her American colleague did, despite her scenery devouring rich bitch character. David Haig’s insane shopkeeper delivered better on the laughs, though he ultimately fell for the same weakness as the rest of the production: bad writing.

Yes, Bond is seen as a controversial national icon, but The Sea fails to do what it says on the tin: advertised as a comedy, it’s remarkably unfunny, unless one considers endless monologues packed with amateur philosophy and stilted dialogue humorous. Yes there are some discussions of class struggle, noblesse oblige, and the merits of insanity, but it drags. And drags. And drags. There’s enough solid material to make up a solid 60 min. one-act, or even a decent 90 min., but the play runs a full 2:30.

Lest the RZ be considered an out of touch and uncultured philistine, he will note the large number of walkouts at the interval, and those he talked with during the interval and after the show found the play equally unsatisfying. The one gentleman who did say he was enjoying the play at the interval was later spotted napping during the second act.

Whether the print critics decide to sink The Sea come press night is questionable, as some directing miracles could occur during the preview period and this is the type of play critics usually fawn over, but the RZ doubts it will be enough. The play is all washed up, and should have remained in Davey Jones’ Locker.

Where: Theatre Royal Haymarket
When: Now through 19 April
Cost: £20-47.50
Concessions: Seniors can book matinees in advance for £20, students can go same day for £12.50 or £20 based on location.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £5 to see a legend on stage. And if you know where to look, you can see it for that (or less).
RZ Other Notes: Oh the joys of first preview. The show started 15+ min. late due to a bad projector cable, and a row in the stalls was even cleared as they needed to unbolt it and ran the risk of gear falling from the upper circle into the stalls. And before the Whingers ask, no, the toilets do not feature Dyson Airblades, but the next-best alternative: sensible paper towels.

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