Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Six Acts of Love" - October 2008

It's a rare thing for a play to deliver a genuinely gut wrenching moment. Tron Theatre Company's "Six Acts of Love" delivers two of them.

Ioanna Anderson's play is nominally focused on fiftysomething Katherine as she copes with divorcing husband Tom and the deteriorating mental state of her mother Dorothy. But what quickly becomes clear, albeit without much subtlety, is that what we get are lots of 'stories' which feature Katherine on the periphery but are not really her story. Unfortunately what also quickly becomes clear is that the story we are interested in is that of Dorothy and her husband Fergus.

The main plot elements featuring Katherine didn't quite work for me - despite an excellent performance by Barbara Wilshere. The plot device of having to remarry Tom in order to get a proper divorce felt so absurd to me that it drained any meaning from what follows. And while I enjoyed Benny Young's portrayal of Tom I was left feeling that it may have been better had he been an off stage presence in the manner of their four absent sons.

Similarly the final scene's attempt to refocus on Katherine, despite being heavily signposted, comes across as awkward, forced and unnecessary. It also detracts from Clara Onyemere's wonderfully Mary Poppins-esque care assistant Delilah.

But these miss-steps can't take away from the heart of the play - a magnificent portrayal of the desperately sad final months of a once vibrant life, and the effects on those who care for them. I struggled a little to engage with Una McLean's Dorothy in the early stages of the play but her performance after the interval is absolutely haunting. As Fergus, Des Braiden is responsible for many of the play's lighter moments but his struggle between love and frustration is devastatingly real.

Andy Arnold's direction is simple but very effective and despite a run time over two hours it makes for compelling theatre throughout. My one misgiving is the decision not to provide captions of the time frames as indicated in the scriptbook (available for an excellent £3) as some of the transitions would have benefited from it.

While the whole may be less than perfect, the moments of perfection make this a theatrical experience that burns in the mind long afterwards - and leaves a toothmark or two on the bottom lip.

Six Acts of Love runs at the Tron until Saturday 11th October
Image by Douglas Robertson used with permission