The Sunset Limited

Mon 10th – Thu 13th June 2013

reviews

Joe Nicholson

at 12:23 on 11th Jun 2013

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MacCarthy’s The Sunset Limited comes to the Michael Pilch Studio this week, in a captivating production lead by Esme Hicks. The play consists of a single scene, in which two characters, named merely Black and White, debate and discuss heavy questions of truth and value in life. The script is profound, moving between the ex-prisoner Black’s evangelical Christian position and the skepticism and atheism of White the professor, whose suicide Black has prevented. This weightiness of subject matter runs alongside a sparseness of information about these characters - there is an elusive quality to the play throughout, as the past of each interlocutor emerges in hints. Black’s attempts to save White are accompanied by stories of the jailhouse, whilst details of White’s feelings of alienation from family and the social world resonate with the audience. Alongside this tone of mystery a slippage in meaning between characters prevails, making for deeply engaging dialogue as the two world views wrestle.

The decision to stage the play with seating around a square space, with the furniture in Black’s flat merging with the spectators, works well with such a small production. Indeed, the simple props supported the acting, only at minor points seeming amateurish. Both Sophie Ablett (Black) and Sam Ereira (White) moved well around the simple apartment setting, and can be commended for their engaging delivery of MacCarthy’s dialogue.

A script which consists almost entirely of the debate between two characters demands fluent and enthralling acting, and Ablett and Ereira - for the most part - gave us this. Accents were held almost flawlessly throughout, and Ablett especially delivered her rhythmical lines in a voice that was enthralling from the opening, an effort that more than compensated for the few slips in her lines. Ereira was occasionally wooden, his acting of the frustration and distress of White often seeming less fluent and convincing than the calm humour of Ablett’s Black.

This notwithstanding, the pair managed to construct an intensely interesting performance in the intimate studio space, much less taxing on the audience than an hour and a half would seem. The thoughtful and moving lines of MacCarthy’s script translated well into performance, with arresting moments of passionate emotion working well alongside the resistance between the perspectives of each character. The depth of past experience that is slowly revealed in the script was executed very well, holding the audience’s attention, and building in intensity towards the conclusion.

At the opening of the play, the roles of Black and White suggest the metaphorical relationship between God and proud man, but this interpretation is harnessed and interrogated by the playwright, treated self-consciously and developed into the clash between humans who will always be limited. Hick’s production satisfies the profound potential of The Sunshine Limited’s ending, rounding off an intense and, for the most part, high calibre production. This, and with brunch included before the show, certainly make it something to squeeze in to those packed eighth week schedules.

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