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Review: Love, lies and lust in Closer at the Donmar Warehouse


When I saw the film version of Patrick Marber's love quadrangle play in 2004 I wasn't blown away. It struck me as story that might best be told on stage when the drama is presented close up and in a more concentrated form. And I was right, it is better as a play but I still have problems with it.

Its plot revolves around the love, lies and lust of four people. Dan (a nicely bearded Oliver Chris) is an obituary writer who falls for a stripper (Rachel Redford) but then meets divorcee Alice (Nancy Carroll), a photographer and falls in love with her. Meanwhile Dan inadvertently sets up Alice with Larry (Rufus Sewell), a dermatologist which a penchant for strip clubs and prostitutes. And so the merry-go-round of love, lust and relationships begins.

Telling the truth seems to be an important thing for these characters but the truth often becomes a weapon. Love is misinterpreted for lust and used as an excuse for self-seeking while sex becomes an emotional punctuation.

The men in particular profess undying love, cheat and then throw emotional tantrums. And the women aren't much better.

There is some wit and humour in all of this but I wouldn't say it is really funny play. There are sexual and emotional politics but neither would I say it is a play that has many teeth. Their behaviour is depressing rather than shocking and, as the play rumbles through its two and half hours, somewhat inevitable. All the characters pretty much end up getting what they deserve but it doesn't in any way feel tragic.

In the end I'm left wondering what Patrick Marber's point is with Closer; that we are misguided when it comes to love and sex? And, what I will take away from the evening, is that I still have a soft spot for Oliver Chris and we definitely need to see more of this talented cast on stage but in something, well, more interesting.

Closer is on at the Donmar Warehouse until April 4.