The latest offering at the Trafalgar Studios small studio space is new play Precious Little Talent by award winning playwright Ella Hickson. And it is a curious piece, curious in that it is on the whole engaging but at the same time unsatisfying.
Set, primarily, in New York it opens on Christmas Eve on the roof of an apartment block with an encounter between young American Sam and newly arrived "English" girl Joey: “British is what people say when they are too embarrassed to call themselves English”.
It is the sort of encounter that only really happens in fiction and you get to see the same scene played out twice, once from each character's perspective. Sam is immediately smitten with Joey. Joey responds to his chat up lines by suddenly putting her hand in his jeans pocket and then licking his mouth (this is fiction remember).
Sam works in the apartment block as a carer for retired English professor George who has a degenerative disease. George is Sam’s father but they haven’t seen each other for two years.
The triangle between Sam trying to woo Joey, Joey trying to re-establish a relationship with her father and George trying to shield his daughter from the truth about his condition is both engaging, touching and well executed.
The problem with Precious Little Talent is not a lack of talent but a lack of focus.
With its haunting contemporary themes about a father desperate not to forget his daughter and two young people determined not to be forgotten by the world, Precious Little Talent will strike a chord with audiences of all ages.
In reality this theme of not forgetting seems, ironically, lost. For a start Sam has the stereotypical american dream-fuelled optimism while Joey just seems to mope around bemoaning the fact she can't get a job despite being a graduate. Her long speeches come across as melodramatic, particularly when played out against the debilitating and devastating illness to which her father is slowly succumbing.
Her erratic behaviour also feels at odds with the domestic scenes such as playing Trivial Pursuit on Christmas Day.
And while the repetition of the opening scene from different perspectives is clever and well done, it doesn’t carry through the play and seems out of place.
There are superb performances from Ian Gelder as George and Anthony Welsh as Sam (last seen in Sucker Punch). Olivia Hallinan plays Joey and was the weakest of the three, surprising considering of the two young leads she has by far more acting experience.
I’m going to give Precious Little Talent a high three star rating but it would have got four if it had been more focused.
Rehearsal pictures by: Idil Sukan/Draw HQ
Thank goodness for His Dark Materials with its large cast because it has helped me out on a number of occasions and this is one such case. Ian Gelder was in said play in which Mr W of course took a small role early in his acting career.
Theatre wine rating
This is something new I want to do which I thought up last night during a whinge about the poor quality vs high price of wine at the theatre. I’m not a big drinker but I like a glass of wine at the theatre and as it is a rareish treat I like it to be a nice glass of wine. Now I don’t mind paying a bit more but I do object to paying over £5 for something that tastes like it's come from box.
So Trafalgar Studios gets a 5/10 wine rating.
And yes I shall be keeping a tally throughout the year and will include a wine category in my end of year review.