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Stitches

Monday, 16 August, 2010

London – Half Moon Theatre – 9-13 August 2010 – 19:30

This play is performed in a real bar and the seats are around tables or on chairs on a raised platform.  There is the smell of food and drink and a glimpse of natural light coming through the open door. There are three characters on stage.

One is a blonde woman. She has her hair pinned up, black-rimmed glasses on, a shawl, top and skirt and heels on. She sits reading and has a half empty glass of wine next to her.  She looks like she has been plucked out of an office and dropped in a pub and does not feel comfortable at all.  She has an air of ‘leave me alone and don’t look at me: I’m reading’ about her.

A second character is a woman with brown hair sitting at a small round table.  She is wearing a black duffle coat, colourful floppy woollen hat, denim skirt, top and colourful patterned tights and clutching a colourful bag. She has her ponytail placed on one side draped onto her shoulder. She sits drinking a glass of orange juice, looking around and sticking up some notices with tear off contact details on them. She seems to have a lively personality but is quite innocent and childlike. She also looks of place in this bar, as though she is not quite sure what to do or how to behave.

The third person is a man. He is wearing jeans, a black shirt, shoes and a long black dress coat on. He stands slouching against the bar towards the back, looking down into space contemplating something that distracts him from the others in the room.

The bar comes to life and the characters come to life even more. Their lives are explained and new people enter and as in any bar, they eventually get talking to each other and find they have more things in common than they would have thought.

The blonde woman is Cendrine, a skilled pianist who is not playing any more. She hides the cause of this for a while. The colourful lady is Alice. She introduces herself as Charlotte though and has her reasons for this.

She is on a blind date with a twist. The man is Anil. He owns the bar. He is a man of few words, few smiles and even less eye contact.

Other people in the bar are Carmel, Harley and Victoria.  Carmel is the woman that runs the unsuccessful open mic nights.  She regularly goes on stage and slowly dies inside as she tries to gain enthusiasm for her act and get others involved.  She is friends with Anil; they have a complicated relationship, beyond employer and employee.

Harley is an old school friend of Cendrine. They had a thing for each other at school and this reunion is in hope of what could be. He is a cockney lad and you take him as he comes.  He has a kind heart and loves football. He wears a red football scarf, jeans and a denim jacket and trainers.

Victoria is also on a blind date. She is wearing a grey patterned mini skirt, black tights, black mow cut sleeveless top and lots of gold jewellery. She is meeting someone she has never seen. She is late and she does not care. The bar is not quite to her liking.

Kathryn Bond is excellent as Alice. She perfects the awkward and sweet woman who loves her life but has a sadness that she cannot quite hide. Her comic timing is spot on and she makes gestures or uses facial expressions to capture moments superbly. Alice and Anil are having a conversation about the nicest present Anil got for his wife. He says it was a heart but quickly adds that it was not a real one. She says she did wonder and Kathryn Bond raises her eyes in an hysterical way with shock and holds her hands and throbs it like she is holding a beating heart.

Christine Carty portrays Carmel appropriately. Carmel wears beige trousers with braces and a black sleeveless top. She seems to find it hard to confront people or tell them how she really feels. Christine Carty displays this by making Carmel indecisive in her speech and in her actions. She goes to do something and then stops and then goes somewhere else, always internalising what she feels.

Aaron Cini plays Harley. He is a loveable lad who wears his emotions openly and has a sweet nature. Aaron Cini portrays him well. He is likeable, playful, considerate and unaware of his charm and the attention of the women around him.

Lucy Grattan is Victoria. Victoria is quite brash and ingratiates herself into situations and is simply extremely annoying. Lucy Grattan acts the repellent woman fittingly.  She behaves in a loud and attention seeking manner. She has a foul mouth and is quite happy to bend over backwards, literally, to get a man’s attention. Having to do that for each performance is quite something to try in front of many as it can easily go horribly wrong. A bridge may fall.

Nav Khan is Anil. He makes Anil a silent and brooding man who has a weight of trouble on his shoulders and is unwilling to share his burden. He shuffles about and avoids conversation and eye contact steadfastly throughout. He allows Anil to loosen and open a little and even looks Alice in the eye at the appropriate time. It is interesting as this is a hard character to make engaging but Nav Khan succeeds.

Gabriella Schmidt pays Cendrine. Cendrine loves herself and believes everyone else should too. Gabriella Schmidt uses the prudish manner and tone to emulate Cendrine’s upbringing and mindset well. She plays her quite restrained and tidy. Cendrine comes across as someone who cannot stand to be out of control. She has flashes of exploring things outside her normal character. It is fun to watch. This is when she becomes jealous of Victoria and double dares her.

Amy Cudden and Laura Murray’s play is humorous at times and has some good interactions between the characters.  Alice tries to get Anil to talk to her by asking him “What’s your favourite colour?” Then she says “Do you know anyone in the army?” In another moment, Alice accepts a drink from Anil and as he has not been very nice so uses this to apologise to her.  Then he goes quiet again.  Alice is flummoxed.  “Conversation is the social glue of this world.  Small talk can help many an awkward situation!”  she says.  Classic.

The comical parts are usually those moments between Alice and another character. Alice gives some advice to Victoria about always being late: “you should take a time management course”. Victoria also has a nice line when she cries about her missing scarf: “It was supposed to be a jumper but just got longer and longer”.

Unfortunately, the writing takes a shameful plunge when children with special needs are insulted and laughed at by Victoria: “…the children can be annoying, especially when one of the special needs wets themselves”. It is quite despicable really.

The play then takes another nose-dive as Victoria gets on stage, drunk and full of confidence.  She then proceeds to insult members of the actual audience making disgusting sexual comments about them. It does not flow with the story and seems as if it was purely put in for cheap laughs.

Tom Brazier has directed the cast well according to the traits of each character.  They move distinctively and individually.  They have their own journeys and use their spaces suitably.  The scenes with Alice and Anil are the most interesting however and a lot of the dialogue between Harley, Cendrine and Victoria could have been cut. There is one prolonged conversation between Cendrine and Harley which made thoughts of “last orders please” spring to mind. The fact that Alice and Anil came back at the end was what kept the interest going. Kathryn Bond carried the play with her Alice. Without her, the rest may not have been bearable.

Luke Benjamin’s set design is quite impressive. The fairy lights that frame the three areas of each character that is on stage is inspired. They hang around them from the ceiling and come down on either side. They light up in succession at the beginning and it gives a beautiful look and mystery to the bar. There are trails of various sized hearts hanging down in the centre of each of the three tables. There is love in the air. This hints at their stories, at lost love, love in the present tense and a hope for love in the future.

There is unfortunately also a garish red plastic strip wall hanging and red lights, which bounce off of it. This is hard to look at and a bit painful also.  It does nothing for the play and is quite off-putting. Luke Benjamin redeems himself however with wine bottles that are scattered around the bar on shelves and tables. They have melted wax all over them and there are coloured glass candle holders with lit candles in them placed intermittently also. It creates a warm and homely atmosphere.

The play has a clever realisation moment at the end when the reason for the title is revealed.  The characters all have cuts in their lives that need mending and healing. They need to be stitched back together. Sometimes these stitches come undone but they can simply be tended to and re-stitched. Unfortunately, even this is not enough to stop this play being overall a flat pint with too much head and no widget.

Cast Credits:  Kathryn Bond – Alice.  Christina Carty – Carmel.  Aaron Cini – Harley.  Lucy Grattan – Victoria.  Nav Khan – Anil.  Gabriella Schmidt – Cendrine.

Company Credits:  Writers – Amy Cudden and Laura Murray.  Director – Tom Brazier.  Assistant Director – Hannah Almond.  Set Design – Luke Benjamin.

© Chantal Pierre-Packer

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