Dotted Line Theatre’s production is based on an excerpt from a novel by Ray Bradbury. Its plot is grounded in small town America, but in a more innocent era perhaps, although the events around this small town, where murders are being committed by a shadowy figure known as ‘The Lonely One’ certainly do something to replace innocence with an atmosphere that is at times close to surreal.
On the surface, everything is fine. Below is a seething morass of issues. Does Lavinia’s delight in the warm air brushing her thighs denote some sexual undercurrent? She is after all, an old maid at 36, unmarried and perhaps, despite all her self-assurance, lacking some aspect of adventure. Are the men somehow complicit in the brutality? Is the man in the drugstore who reveals Lavinia’s address to a stranger really innocent?
So, it’s no surprise that Lavinia and her friend drive themselves to the brink of hysteria as they go out to the cinema and then return, after dark.
This production is all about stagecraft. The set features some small cardboard houses, lit within and cleverly brought into relief, so that they look almost three-dimensional while actually being nearly flat. The houses open at various times to reveal something of what is going on within – drinks on a verandah, a man in a rocking chair, a smoker.
That is part of the stagecraft. The other aspect is the way that the actors add dimensions to their playing using small props and above all hand-held lights. Fireflies swarm in the air, a lifeless arm is lit to denote a body, and most cleverly of all, a hand flickering in front of a lantern conjures the atmosphere of the cinema where a Charlie Chaplin film is playing.
The effects are often surprising; sometimes they are beautiful. The plot itself will appeal to anyone who likes suspense and surprises too, which abound. And what is most surprising is the way that the plot can manipulate our feelings, even after a seemingly endless diet of horror films and plays. Perhaps that shows how suggestion often overpowers the blunt instrument of the obvious.
This one-hour production is both elegant and entertaining. Cleverness, wit and charm are its hallmarks.
Reviewed at the Little Angel Theatre, 29 March 2012
Cast: Jennie Fox – Francine; Katie Pattinson – Lavinia; Sophie Steel – Elizabeth; Charlie Tighe – Men
Director – Rachel Warr; Designers – Tom Crame and Rachel Warr; Sound – Ben Oliver; Costume – Lexie Lambert; Lighting support – Dan Saggars; Stage management – Zoe Sofair; Trainee producer – Alex Green
(c) michael spring