More than 20 years no one had seen anything quite like it on the stage…
By Suman Bhuchar
AFTER watching writer, Patrick Marber’s award winning play, ‘Closer’ running at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London, I found myself in general social conversation with members of the audience discussing whether this play dealing with themes of love, sex, dhoka (cheating), jealousy or middle-class angst could ever be transposed to an Asian/black setting and if so, would it be different?
Could this also happen in the Tinder generation? ‘Closer’ was written in 1997.
Obviously there is not a single answer – we agreed to say that love, courtship, relationships and sex are very different across cultures and generations.
Despite all these questions, ‘Closer’, is an engrossing play.
Basically the story is that Dan, an obituary writer, and wannabe author (Jack Farthing) meets a young waif, Alice (Ella Hunt), rescues her after she is hit by a taxi takes her to the local Accident & Emergency unit at a hospital, is attracted to her, then drops his girlfriend for her. Later, he writes a book about their relationship, meets a photographer, Anna (Nina Toussaint-White) who takes his picture for said book and he lusts/loves her and they get together.
Meanwhile there is a doctor, Larry (Sam Troughton) who also fancies the photographer, Anna and they are an item but she breaks up her marriage to be with Dan.
The rescued girl, Anna also gets dumped but over the course of the several years of the story line these people keep connecting and swapping partners and lives.
Alice wants to be loved, Dan wants fame, Larry is consumed by rage and lust, Anna is a bit more restrained, but all of them are consumed by desire, passion and jealousy and it’s never clear how honest they are being with each other although they talk a lot.
‘Closer’ was first performed twenty-five years ago at the Royal National Theatre and the show about sexual politics, relationships, infidelity, misogyny, won several accolades including the Evening Standard Best Comedy award (1997) and The Laurence Olivier Award for ‘Best New Play’ (1998), transferred to the West End and Broadway.
It was then adapted by the writer into a successful film, released in 2004 directed by Mike Nichols with Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.
Despite its popularity, this is the first time www.asianculturevulture.com has seen a staged production of this contemporary classic, and it has been given a very cinematic and modernistic makeover.
The original play was a simple four hander and this stylish production directed by Clare Lizzimore and designed by Soutra Gilmour, is very film noir with focussed spots, dark backdrops and also includes songs by Bjork, Pulp, Portishead and other artists to denote the period of 1990s where it is set. (In fact, this has proved so popular that there is now a playlist of this music to listen on Spotify – see link below).
Alice (Ella Hunt) who does the singing has a fabulous voice. There are live musicians at the back of stage, led by composer, arranger and music director, Arun Ghosh who gets a clarinet solo and percussion is provided by the versatile, Radhika Aggarwal. There are also tableau images of scenes being replicated such as the opening scene which has Anna singing with backdrop of couples dancing in a club.
For some reason, a cemetery in a local park called Postman’s Park acquires importance and it is revealed during the course of the story.
‘Closer’ is a very elegant production, with a great visuals and soundscape.
ACV rating: **** (out of five)
(July 13) until Saturday, August 14 2.30pm and 7.30pm -, The Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Lyric Square, King St, London W6 0QL
The age guidance is 16+ and show is 145 mins long and the show does deal with adult themes, has strong sexual language and some violent scenes.