Closer by Patrick Marber Review

By Patrick Marber
Guild Theatre
May 4-7, 2011

Closer is an intimate play. It is a work that dissects and deconstructs the relationship between four characters. Whilst nominally about sex, it is far more about the “true things” and honesty that comes from within relationships. Can anything be true?

Dan rescues Alice, he is the knight and she is the damsel – a girl vulnerable enough to love him on the basis of his crust-less tuna sandwiches. She says hello stranger and he in return takes her life, steals her past and writes a book that he has always been dreaming of writing. She loves him and she is his muse: but it’s not enough. It never is with Dan. In a publicity shot for the book Dan meets Anna. A woman to Alice’s girl, he professes his interest and she discourages it ostensibly because she knows Alice’s story from reading the book. Obsessed with Anna to the degree of impersonating her on the internet Dan has cyber-sex with Larry who just so happens to have been the doctor who tended to Alice when Dan first rescued her. Having set up Larry with ‘Anna’, Larry actually meets Anna and they become a couple. Things come to a head at the exhibition of Anna’s photographs. Dan finally persuades Anna to embark on an affair and from there both relationships fracture; disintegrate and dissipate into the angry drama of extended break-ups.

The space designed by Robert Smith for this production was certainly a bold vision, large screens, one of plastic received projections from six projectors. At times this transforming space was a revelation. At others it felt too expansive for the close-quartered and intimate encounters with the couples. The strongest scenes dramatically were tightly focused by Kei Murakami’s lights and drew in the audience to the closeness of the action. Particularly strong was the ‘stripping scene’ where Larry discovers Alice performing in a spotlight that merges her alleged past and present. It was a tightly wound dramatic scene and testament to the emerging talents of first-time director Max Paterson and his assistant Corey Reynolds. The final encounter between Dan and Alice in a hotel room was another exceptionally strong scene. The tight focus in these instances (and some others) certainly did not leave the small cast floundering in an endless expanse of space as occasionally some of the others scenes seemed to.

The structure of Closer is fragmentary. It follows the characters over years, this did not come across too well in the first half but by the second half the rhythms of the production seemed have caught up with the script and it all tied together nicely. It is a quite hilarious script at points and at times the audience was laughing out loud even during scenes where the wit was clearly a counterpoint to poignancy. This is strong writing and served to carry the action through the somewhat selfish actions of the characters.

The female cast of Felicia King as Alice and Georgia Kelly as Anna did well to contrast their characters and still make them both believably attractive to both of the men. The chic lines of Anna’s costumes contrasted with Alice who was all legs and Doc Martins really assisted in this – so kudos to designer Claire Gawne. Dan played by Danny Ball was simultaneously infuriating and adorable with his love and his lack of understanding and Larry played by Angus Cameron was surprisingly and devastatingly vengeful. All the actors successfully played their characters in the beginnings of love and the fallout after love.

The duplicity of these characters at points was almost unbearable – Dan becomes incensed that Anna sleeps with Larry to close off their relationship forever and yet he has been ‘sharing’ her for over a year during their affair. The righteousness of all the characters is at times infuriating, but this goes to reinforce how lying in the first half is not ideal and neither is the truth in the second half. In both instances the other party is hurt. Only Alice recognises this and finds herself unable to tell the truth and unable to lie and as such she has to leave. And yet as the audience discovers what other characters have realised throughout the play, not even Alice is who she seems. Closer challenges its audience to see if anything is true.

However close we do get, there is always another kernel of truth, another level to our partners that we do not comprehend, that we feel the need to realise whatever the consequences, this opportunity to get Closer. Be warned, it didn’t turn out so well for Alice, Anna or Dan. And Larry? Well, Larry is a f****ing caveman.

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