Trying something different. Still in the U.S.A. but writer Katie Walsh has seen Anam Theatre's production of Closer by Patrick Marber and written this review for Musings in Intermissions. Read on below ...
We are all encountered with the question as to how we choose to enter into romantic relationships; out of loneliness, in search of excitement, financial security or just plain old desperation. When one can't be with the person you truly desire, should you be willing to settle for less and risk hurting those you have settled for? Closer deals with the raw human nature of wanting to be loved and desired, and in consequence the hurt caused by those who endeavor to fulfill their inner cravings. Are people truly what we perceive them to be?
Anam Theatre, established in 2009, stage a wide variety of plays, basing their choices on plays of “great writing”. Closer's intricate drama is filled with fast paced dialogue and striking honesty and is a true example of Anam's criteria. We are immediately captivated by the physically fueled and complex relationship between young temptress Alice (Roisin Eyes) and introverted obituary writer Dan (Martin Maguire). I found myself immediately absorbed by what could only seem like a destructive relationship based solely on dependancy.
Dan's development into false confidence provided by his young trophy girlfriend transform him into a desire-hungry animal searching for his next high. Having achieved every thirty-something man's dream, he launches into the quest of attaining Anna (Grace Kiely), an enigmatic photographer that he just simply can't acquire. In his attempt to relieve his lustful frustrations towards her he leads a naive stranger in an attempt to unnerve her. Instead his plan backfires as he unassumingly introduces her to her future partner Larry (Cormac Culkeen). Thrown into a complex quartet of sexual tension and obscurity, the relationships intensify and intertwine as each one searches for what they are looking for. But what are they truly looking for?
Directed by Sarah O'Toole, this intricate tale of lust and sexual yearning is meticulously staged with every damning glance, yearnful touch and tension fuelled pause. This is highlighted in particular in act two when Anna is faced with both Larry and Dan, in the same restaurant at different points of the day, her sentiments of frustration and confusion felt by all. Every entrance, movement and slick swish of wine into the separate situations is attentive and cleverly directed. With the limited space of the Town Hall Studio, of a play with perhaps a slight too many scenes, Peter Shine's set design creates an efficient approach to allow smooth set changes. With two folding wooden Triptych walls on either side of the stage, the transition from doctor's surgery to luxurious penthouse is a crafty approach to an otherwise complex transition. With the excessive scene changes there is a great risk of delays but the stage manager's speedy alterations are slick and faultless. Sound, also done by O'Toole, allows easy transitions for set changes and flawlessly creates the sleazy atmosphere needed in certain situations. From sultry sequins to demure velvet coats, Sinead Coughlan, costume designer, accurately portrays the individual personalities of the contrasting characters at war.
The cast as a whole create the intense tension the moment the lights go up. Alice, played by Roisin Eyres, embodies the riveting, complex and mysterious character. she depicts Alice with extreme vulnerability and intensity throughout, and her and Maguire's volatile, dependent relationship is both convincing and heartbreaking. Kiely, who was recently nominated for best supporting actress from The Irish Times Theatre Awards this year, inconceivably captures the inconsiderate and heartless Anna, with vivacious charisma. Cormac Culkeen's Larry depicts a lonely man in search of companionship, his brash confidence in search for a conquest making it hard to know who you are rooting for at the end of this sexual debacle.
Anam Theatre's production of Closer is thoroughly enjoyable with quick-witted dialogue, powerful on-stage chemistry and a smartly designed set. I eagerly await future productions from Anam and further frank portrayals of humanity and it's flaws.