An obituary writer’s life is changed when he meets Alice, a reckless free spirit. Her habit of not looking as she crosses the road lands her in hospital where the two have flirtatious banter with Alice seeking intimacy through bizarre personal questions. From there unfolds the messy interweaving of four characters’ lives as they struggle and scheme to hold onto love or what they think is love.
Patrick Marber’s play, first performed in 1997 feels as relevant and as shocking as it would have been then. With hints of the 90s as well as modern aspects and a minimalistic bright red stage designed by Soutra Gilmour, it gives the story a timeless feel. Marber’s dialogue fascinates and entertains, particularly the consistently surprising quips from Larry’s character. It was engaging and intriguing as you wonder where the characters would end up and how their lives would change. The characters lack real progression, and their bad habits cycle over and over, apart from Anna who grows more comfortable in solitude. They seem promising and exciting at the beginning but seem to become bland which may be a testament to the fading feelings and boredom in relationships which the characters face.
The patchwork of scenes are mostly presented chronologically with rewinds cleverly directed by Clare Lizzimore.
All of the cast are spontaneous and responsive to each other. Nina Toussaint-White’s Anna shows strength and a confident demeanour which hides her impressionability. Toussaint-White’s delivery is sharp and playful, she portrays Anna’s understated nature brilliantly. Daniel is played by Jack Farthing. He is witty, reserved and ostensibly classy. There is something likeable about him and his artisticness which makes the audience feel torn and repulsed by his painfully obvious, idealistic love for the two women. Sam Troughton’s Larry, a sex obsessed doctor, provides the comic relief in the play. As he battles between the good and bad within him, it occasionally comes out as a sort of mania and disguised by humour.
Ella Hunt plays Alice, a young woman who is both naive yet worldly. She sports a fringed bob and embodies the manic pixie dream girl trope in every way. However, in this story she isn’t endlessly doted on. Hunt perfectly captures the balance between fragility and rogue survivor and her tenacious spirit gives her a haunting quality. Scenes between Daniel and Alice were slightly stilted showing their forced intimacy and tensions between them.
The sexually explicit nature of the piece portrays humans in a primitive light whilst having this awareness and matter of factness gives it an anthropological tone. The variety of characters and relationships makes it relatable and sets the audience up to reflect on what real intimacy is and how desire for ownership, security and co-dependency can skewer it.
Closer plays until August 13th with tickets available from https://lyric.co.uk/shows/closer/
Reviewer: Riana Howarth
Reviewed: 20th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★