Monday, March 30, 2009

"Lucky Box" - March 2009

David Harrower's contribution to this season's "A Play, A Pie & A Pint" came with no advance indication as to topic or tone, so it was good to see a full turnout at Oran Mor on the Monday lunchtime - before any reviews are out. It shows just how much trust the audience are prepared to put in producer David MacLennan. And I'm pleased to report that their faith was well rewarded.

I'm afraid that this is another production where I think it's best to go in blind, so I'm not going to comment directly on the plot. I'd go so far on this one as to suggest that you avoid reading reviews elsewhere - just in case others are less circumspect. It's not that there is a huge twist or reveal at the end, it's just that for most of the play we're unsure what exactly is going on, and which of the two characters we should fear for. It's a long time since I've been in the theatre quite so uncertain and intrigued about the events in front of me. There are moments of pure electricity between Stuart Bowman and Scott Fletcher as the dynamic cleverly shifts between the two. Fletcher gives a carefully balanced performance allowing his character to be sympathetic and smart while retaining the potential for a darker side, whilst Bowman convinces as a man on the edge.

But going along with Harrower's relentless rollercoaster ride of a play has its problems. Much like watching a series of "24" once you understand what's gone on, many of the characters' actions in earlier episodes no longer seem to make much sense. It leaves the play as one to be greatly enjoyed in-the-moment but possibly not to be reflected on too much afterwards.

There are some nice moments of topicality that get some laughs, and some of Harrower's observations clearly hit their mark but the production suffers rather badly from a combination of the staging and Dominic Hill's direction. The catwalk stage set-up left many of the Oran Mor's regulars confused, and I know I wasn't the only one to circumnavigate the room trying to pick a seat with a good view before realising that all eight of them were already taken. The default positions of the characters on the stage leave much of the audience constantly facing the back of one of the two actors and I find it difficult to believe there wasn't a more adequate way of arranging the space. Perhaps this was designed with next week's performances at the Traverse more in mind.

But this firecracker of a play and its two performances are more than strong enough to overcome any flaws.

Lucky Box is a co-production between Oran Mor where it runs until Saturday 4th April and the Traverse where it runs from 7th to 11th April.
Image by Leslie Black used with permission.