Siren, by Peter Briffa

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010

Sex in the city

London – Etcetera Theatre – 10 -13  August 2010 – 19:30 (1:00)

This is a tale told backwards, and so it begins – rather than ends – in something darker than tears.

The plot is a simple one, of a young and beautiful prostitute (Paula Gilbert) and her long term client (Glenn Speers), and the development (or undoing) of their relationship. The plot, running backwards, does take a little time to grasp, and while it is quite momentous in its scope, the brief exchanges of conversation are really what matters. There’s nothing too insightful about these exchanges, but in their entirety they do have a peculiar resonance that stays with you long after the cast have taken their bows.

Paula Gilbert is the siren

Now that could just be down to prurient curiosity. The oldest profession, by its very nature has something mysterious about it. (How, for example, does it begin, especially for those who are quite clearly not ‘slags working Kings Cross’?)

This, and all those other questions you’ve always wanted to ask of prostitutes and their clients, are explored in Peter Briffa’s multi-scened drama.

The set is simple – bed, chair, window, a few other bits and pieces – but it’s stylishly done, and the lighting too, with the single spot highlighting the Venetian blind gave a point of focus where too often in small theatre spaces (where sets have to be changed quickly) this is overlooked.

We’re never really sure about anyone’s identity. The girl could be Trixie or Jennifer or Katherine; the man, John or Terry. What becomes clear is that the man’s son could be dating this girl (someone like him probably is) and while the publicity leaflet’s description of this drama – ‘searing’ – isn’t quite right, it does have a poignancy that stems from the ordinariness of the people concerned and which does take us a lot further than the frisson felt by the average Guardian reader picking up a copy of the News of the World on a Sunday.

Paula Gilbert looks every inch the part of the thousand-quid hooker. Glenn Speers was perhaps a little more hesitant, especially in those early scenes when the boundary between love and violence comes ever closer. But director Paul Blinkhorn moves everything on at a pretty good pace, in spite of the clothes that necessarily have to come on and off with some frequency.

In terms of the plotline, I thought Peter Briffa let the man off the hook a little towards the end, but nevertheless, the resonance remains.

Cast Credits: Girl – Paula Gilbert; Man – Glenn Speers

Company Credits: Writer – Peter Briffa. Director – Paul Blinkhorn. Sound and lighting – uncredited. Set design – Aaron J Dootson.

Reviewed 10 August 2010

(c) Michael Spring

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