Not Talk­ing

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - THEATRE -

Ar­cola Theatre, London Un­til Jun 2, 1hr 15mins

When a writer has made it big, go­ing back to their ear­li­est works doesn’t al­ways reap re­wards. Pro­lific and suc­cess­ful, Mike Bartlett has given us award-win­ners King Charles III on stage and Doc­tor Fos­ter on TV. But his first play, for ra­dio, is a lu­cid four-han­der span­ning decades and gen­er­a­tions that won a ma­jor prize and has been adapted by the au­thor for the stage.

Four chairs, a pi­ano and pools of light are all that il­lu­mi­nate this cau­tion­ary tale hinge­ing not on what is said but what is kept hid­den. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Lucy and James starts to founder when she has a mis­car­riage (we only hear of it through David Horovitch’s gen­tle, con­sid­er­ate James), and his stance as a con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tor in World War Two em­bar­rasses Lucy (a stoic Kika Markham), though he is obliv­i­ous. These eva­sions have long-reach­ing con­se­quences.

Mark and Amanda are both squad­dies at an Army camp. Gung-ho lad Mark (Lawrence Walker, be­low) finds that the ma­cho cul­ture forces him to re­main quiet about an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing Gemma Lawrence’s strong Amanda that also changes her life.

Deftly di­rected by James Hil­lier, the piece builds and ebbs and flows – like the piece of Chopin mu­sic that even­tu­ally links this quar­tet – and ab­sorbingly re­veals the fall­out of stay­ing silent.

Mark Cook

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