Emily Branford & Sebastian Freeman @ Holden Street Theatres (The Manse)
7:00pm, Mon 23 Feb 2009
It’s my first visit (of, no doubt, many) to Holden Street this year, and the first performance I’ve ever seen in The Manse. The performance space is a surprise – little more than a bedroom, it’s a tight squeeze for the crowd of around twenty that have assembled for this, the first of 63(!) performances of Scarborough over the course of the next month.
As we enter The Manse, there’s a pensive couple sitting on the bed, backs to each other; the room is ripe with tension, with sadness. Scarborough (the British seaside resort in which the room is located) is presented in medias res (a term I just learnt today); the opening dialogue reveals a dead relationship, their actions the sad and reluctant goodbyes.
We’re then transported back to the start of the couples’ stay in this room, witnessing the happier parts of their relationship – the joy and the coy. And such is the hook of the production that I’m loathe to elaborate further on the plot, lest I give away the secret; but there’s a reason for Her shyness and seclusion. There’s an honesty in his self-assuredness and perfunctory actions. And there’s a fantastic turn of events that just works.
Acting is first rate, direction within the tight spaces perfectly measured. Problems? Well, I guess there were a few; opening night led to a tight fit inside The Room, with much bartering of dodgy hips and knees for the prized seating positions (I wound up wedged behind a door – awkward when the characters entered or left, but brilliant for one of the penultimate scenes… I basically had both characters spitting rage upon me). And, whilst Sebastian Freeman is perfectly cast, Emily Branford looks just a teensy bit too young for her role… not that I’m complaining. But the gravest oversight was the dialogue preceding the couple’s pivotal altercation; I know my New Super Mario Brothers, and that was most certainly not a “game over” sound. Good job on the “lost a life” bit, though.
Yes, that’s the biggest problem I could find.
Seriously, though, this was an absolutely cracking bit of theatre, and a real credit to all involved. It’s exactly what I want from my Fringe – something thoughtful, emotional, and different.