CUPPERS: Between Mouthfuls (Merton)

Tue 6th November 2012

reviews

Victoria Ibbett

at 00:03 on 9th Nov 2012

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Between Mouthfuls is a one-act play, taken from Ayckbourn’s Confusions that tells five interconnected stories in five acts. The premise is the exposure of tragedy, or welts of emotion within seemingly mundane situations. In Between Mouthfuls, two couples connected - unbeknownst to two of the characters - by an extramarital affair, sit down at separate tables in the same restaurant. As their waitress moves in and out of earshot, so too the conversations at each table fade in and out of hearing.

It’s worth stating at the outset that unfortunate circumstances blighted this play. The sudden illness of a key cast member meant that Amy Davis, the technical assistant, had to step in to read the part of Martin. However, the cast did well to work around this and deliver a performance that, although inescapably flawed, had impressive features.

The acting was proficient. The querulously impatient Donald (Jasper Russell) was, I suspect, more Russell than anything else, but he fitted the bill and his timing was excellent. The instance of the waitress (Ella Bucknall) hovering in evident frustration as he perused the label of the Merlot was particularly entertaining. However, he lacked a rapport with the other characters. His dialogue with his jilted wife (Sophie Terret), in particular, was low on energy, the lines between the two of them falling very flatly.

Contrasting sharply with his cantankerous persona was that of his mistress, the sparky and jaded Polly (Linnet Kaymer) who is sick enough of her husband to escape to Rome for three weeks with Donald. Kaymer did well at winding up the tone of the conversation at her table to a destructive pitch, especially considering that she was, for the most part, engaging in dialogue with a stand-in.

However, all too frequently unfortunate staging undermined the drama. The team had gone for elaborate table settings that became more and more cluttered as the respective meals went on. Furthermore, the plastic cutlery and paper plates rendered Emma’s climatic gesture of frustration with her philandering husband puerile. Finally, the rush off stage at the end of all four characters was clunky and poorly handled; leaving the audience at an initial loss as to whether the play had reached it’s close.

In all, this performance demonstrated potential, although it was less down by a poor set, occasionally awkward direction, and a lacklustre performance from a couple of the cast.

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