Monday, 21 May 2012

Playing Dead (theatre)

June at the Devonshire Park is Thriller Season with three plays being performed over three consecutive weeks. The first of these is Philip Gladwin's Kiss Chase which, oddly, has been retitled as Playing Dead for the Eastbourne performances. 

This psychological thriller is directed by Patric Kearns and the claustrophobic school gymnasium set has been designed by Claire Booth. The nostalgia of childhood reminiscing is increased by a soundtrack of 1980s pop music which can be heard coming from a School Reunion party as four classmates are locked together in the gym.

Years after John Dean (Marcus Hutton - Brookside) left school, he has returned for the Reunion, determined to show the bullies that wrecked his schooldays how much he has changed. But when he gets locked in the gymnasium with three of his old enemies, the mood turns dark. Debbie (Jenny Funnell - As Time Goes By) is now married, smart and elegant, but with mental and emotional bruising that she needs to keep hidden. Her then-boyfriend, Mike, (Stephen Beckett - Coronation Street, The Bill) could charm the birds from the trees but his suave exterior is fraying. Pete (Ben Roddy) was a thug and still has frightening anger management problems.

During their final summer at school, John’s girlfriend Suzannah died in a house fire and over the course of this one evening it becomes increasingly apparent that the people with John were more involved in the night of her death than he ever suspected. As he finally works out the terrible truth John is forced to answer the horrifying question - what is he going to do about it?

Devonshire Park Theatre, June 5th - 9th, 19:45.
Wednesday & Saturday matinees, 14:30.
Various prices.

1 comment:

  1. The atmosphere of Playing Dead was being built as soon as the audience arrived with iconic 1980s songs such as Kraftwerk's The Model and Safety Dance being played. The detailed gymnasium set is built as a funnel sloping back to double doors at the top of the stage, the only entrance and exit. This was particularly effective when Mike or Pete stood by the doors as their physical presence was amplified making them appear even more threatening. The plot is driven by four characters being trapped together and the claustrophobia is intensified by the actors always being onstage. The passing of time is effectively portrayed by a simple dimming of the lights as the actors change position and even at the interval, the actors are not seen to leave the set.
    While there is an element of a who-dunnit in this sharp, contemporary thriller, it is also a fascinating exploration of adolescent relationships and how much our teenage selves dictate the rest of our lives. For me, the standout performance was Jenny Funnell as Debbie but all four actors were excellent and each made their character into a real, believable person. They paced the play perfectly and frequently had the audience holding our breath, waiting to see what would happen next.
    I very much enjoyed Playing Dead and am now looking forward to next week's Thriller Season play, Rope.