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Birthday

Thursday, 22 September, 2011

Secrets Revealed

London – The Sheephaven Bay – 22-28 August 2011

The stage is small. There is a table with an assortment of items on it, a stool, a radio and a black and white picture.  A man in black trousers, white shirt and black tie sits looking tortured.  He has been crying and has a drink in hand, which appears to be whisky.  The man is sitting in a room away from a party that is going on just beyond the closed door.  A woman comes in and, upon finding him there, starts talking at him, uninvited.

The woman has her curly hair swept over to the right of her head.  She is wearing a black bolero jacket, short patterned flower dress and black ballet pumps.  They talk.  He is Kyle.  She is Leila.  They both have stories to tell, secrets to hide and pain to unload and analyse.  Hidden from the partygoers outside, they begin a deep and explorative conversation about life, whisky, parties and the kindness of strangers. Leila is a woman who likes to tell her story and will tell it to whoever will listen.  She tells cab drivers her story when they try to tell her theirs.

Laura Murray plays Leila well.  She has a good American accent and plays intoxication convincingly.  It is intriguing to see her sway around the stage, slur her words in just the right way to convey drunkenness but not obstruct her speech and watch Kyle with merry and questionable eyes.  Laura Murray sometimes throws her arm about and sprays the drink she is holding around the stage and watches it as if someone else had done this.  She realises it was her and then simply does not care and continues with her train of thought.  It is entertaining to watch someone play drunk this well.  Laura Murray reveals the many layers of Leila.  They are peeled back more and more as further secrets are revealed.

Andrew Glen is quiet and mysterious as Kyle.  He is deep and brooding.  One always wonders about him and what his purpose is.  Why is he drinking?  Why is he alone in the room and why is he indulging Leila when he obviously has some deep turmoil of his own to deconstruct?  Attention is drawn to Andrew Glen to see Kyle’s reaction to Leila.  Andrew Glen portrays a lot in his facial expression and manner as he is does not have much dialogue but plays the silent stranger well and with expectation.  There is much upstanding contemplation and drinking.  Andrew Glen pays the guitar whilst Laura Murray sings.  It is a highlight of the performance and lovely to hear.  The song is well known.

The play has some nice moments and interesting conversation between the two characters.  There is a humorous comment from Leila that she chose a drink of whisky simply due to the name of it and the fact that she likes animals.  The two strangers at the same party find a common ground in the solace of a quiet room away from the excitement outside.  It is a nice sentiment that people can and do, do this.  That they connect and just share with each other, support one another and are true and kind.  It is comforting.  You think of your own life and perhaps similar experiences or missed opportunities.  It makes one long for friends old and new and to make a call that has been put off for too long.  There is a great twist at the end, which is quite unexpected.

There was a nice effect of having a real bar outside.  It gave the impression that we were actually in a small room, hiding from a party and listening to a secret conversation of two lonely souls.  Sharon Willems has directed the actors well.  They are individual and also a team.  They portray two average unknown guests well and you could imagine this happening.  The drunk Leila is as good as the nonchalant and hurt Kyle.

It is a birthday in a dark place, a warm place.  Close your eyes.  It is a quiet place, a safe place, somewhere to share your secrets.  Happy Birthday indeed.

(c) Chantal Pierre-Packer 2011

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