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Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio Apr 23 - 29

Donmar's Making Noise Quietly - more suited to the radio?

2769_fullI'm starting to think that I'm turning into one of the West End Whingers. Earlier this week I was obsessed with an actor eating on stage, Jammie Dodgers falling from the gods and last night I caught myself feeling impressed with the spread that was being laid out as a picnic - bread, cheese, butter, cherries and bottles of beer (can we call it ginger, please?).

But I'm sorry to say that the picnic was probably the most memorable thing about Making Noise Quietly - a trio of short plays by Robert Holman currently being aired at the Donmar. Well that and when the two male characters who were having the picnic, stripped off to their birthday suits. Wasn't expecting that.

Ok so it was first preview and things, no doubt, will  sharpen up a little - there seemed to be a few nerves in evidence - but I have to agree with @pcchan, it was like watching three slow radio plays.

After the exuberant performance, set and theatre decoration of The Recruiting Officer, the Donmar has been striped back to a basic stage of green and plain back drop. A projection on the back wall introduces the place and year of each play and then there are silhouettes - roof tops or a window to give a little more detail to the setting.

After that it is simple props - the picnic and bicycle in the first, two chairs a coffee table in the second and a painting easel, chair and table with painting equipment in the third. There is nothing wrong with minimalism - a good story and performance doesn't need physical objects to embellish. But it just wasn't interesting or entertaining enough.

The three plays are loosely connected by themes of family and war. The first, Being Friends,  is set in 1944 and is a conversation between a conscientious objector and a gay man who can't fight due to injuries sustained in a cycling accident. This stood out for the reasons already mentioned but also because it had a certain charm. Matthew Tennyson, playing posh, camp Eric even raised a few chuckles. There was something quite comforting by the ease with which the two became friends even if they didn't necessarily completely agree with each others standpoint.

The second play, Lost, is set in 1982 when a Navy man is visiting the mother of his friend Ian who has just been killed in the Falklands War. Ian hadn't actually spoken to his parents for 5 years and they didn't know where he was. Again a potentially interesting topic but it was just, well, dull.

Play three, Making Noise Quietly, is set in 1995 in the garden of a German business woman, Helene (Sara Kestelman) who has taken a man and his young step son Sam under her wing. The man, Alan, played by Ben Batt is prone to angry violence and Sam bears the brunt. Sam has stopped speaking and has severe social and behavioural issues. 

Helene tries to help both father and step son. There is lots of swearing, some face slapping, fighting and Sam screams quite a bit. There are some interesting psychological issues being explored here but its pace was such that it felt like wading through thick mud and about 15 minutes before the end I just wanted it to be over.

Making Noise Quietly is an odd choice from Rourke or maybe it's just the production that doesn't work. I can't quite see how far it can actually be improved or changed during preview. There were empty seats up in the circle where I was sat and I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't quite the sell out of previous productions.

Not a hit with me, it definitely felt more suited to something you'd listen to on Radio 3 while doing the washing up or ironing but not as bad as the god-awful Pinter play Moonlight, so it's scraping 3 stars.

Making Noise Quietly runs at the Donmar Warehouse until May 26


Two good direct connections: Susan Browne who is in the second play Lost was also in Brideshead Revisited in which Mr W played Sebastian Flyte and John Hollingworth, also in Lost, is in The Hour.