Kings

Tue 1st – Sat 5th November 2011

reviews

Sonia Tong

at 03:03 on 2nd Nov 2011

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If someone were to merely read the script of Kings to me, it would be a brilliant piece in itself. The writer, Donald Futers, excels in realistic dialogue which ebbs and flows naturally, tying together the fragments of a rapidly disintegrating chat show interview.

Self-absorbed host Dylan King (Edward Eustace) “welcomes” the audience with his contemptuous, arrogant, off-air personality before turning on the charm at the flick of a button- more specifically, the button leading to the big red light spelling the word “LIVE”. Taking a moment to settle fully into the role, Eustace portrayed a doomed celebrity desperately clinging onto the wreckage of a sinking career in the limelight with a very real conflict of emotions and maturity. Complementing this character was the unwanted interviewee, rising star James Martin (Dominic Biddle): impulsive, ostentatious and equally obnoxious, he immediately brought the wild and unpredictable energy on which the play depended.

The strength of the two main actors was proudly displayed, clear in their ability to drive the lengthy duologues and carry the show between them. Their chemistry was evident, creating the tense atmosphere of a showdown between two old (but long suffering) friends, in which the audience have intruded, where the jealousies, secrets and betrayals come to a head; the convincing relationship maintained as the two skilfully switched between the on-air/off-air versions of their character. This intensity was maintained throughout the play, particularly at the thrilling and highly physical climax, involving several pieces of set (at one point I feared for Biddle’s safety, in case he was too carried away to fear for himself). Having said this, the constant sense of urgency and adrenaline at every moment became a little tiring, and perhaps a variation of pace in the narrative and a well-placed dramatic pause might have provided a different and therefore heightened kind of tension.

With the central actors taking every opportunity to fill the stage, it was a little disappointing that the supporting female roles remained under-developed and rather two dimensional as characters, ironically squashed by the expanding dramatic personalities of the egotistical male leads. Lizzie Schenk will hopefully not suffer from any permanent disfigurement from having to constantly hunch her shoulders in her role as the generically timid, 17 year old intern Sam Daley- we shall never learn whether her timidness was due to her youthful 17 years, her status as an intern or in fact, her natural emotional state. Completing the cast was the impressive yet strangely enigmatic Mrs Burrow (Juliet Cameron-Wilson), who mastered the ‘femme fatale’ presence and voice in a pleasing tribute to Christina Hendricks, but suffered from limited movement, both around the stage and about her person. One feels that this is not a reflection of the actresses themselves and a slight rewrite and directional change may have been beneficial.

The world these characters inhabited was less defined, although not in an unsatisfactory way. ‘Mad Men’ style costumes, unreliable transmission equipment and AS exams make it difficult to place in history, yet somehow timeless as opposed to anachronistic. It also trod an interesting line between rich leather, velvet and chiffon textures and a minimalist attitude to star portraits lining the studio walls, while subtle but effective changes in lighting indicated which of the characters’ on-air/off-air modes was currently playing. As a whole, the set, sound and production were comparatively discreet and perhaps appropriately so, leaving space for the actors to perform a compelling story. All in all, a definite success for Donald Futers, and I eagerly await future pieces by this upcoming playwright.

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