The King and Queen of the Universe

Tue 15th – Sat 19th October 2013


Joseph Cooper

at 08:48 on 16th Oct 2013



This a captivating piece; the plain black backdrop, the suits, the splash of colour in Anne's dress – everything is delicately staged and immerses the onlooker from the start.

The script by Tom Powell is outstanding – each scene self-contained, in a manner akin to Tennessee Williams, but the piece flows with a staggering alarm. Movement, both of the actors and the scenes, is erratic and jarring, filled with sudden bursts of aggression and soul-wrenching passivity. The play swings between conversational speech and unexpected gems of poetry, both filled with depths in which I am still diving the following morning.

The staging created both claustrophobia and agoraphobia at the same time, or sped between the too all to frequently to be entirely comfortable. 'I need to walk' and 'Look, over there' pass the onlooker back and forth inside the ever-shrinking and expanding locality that is the stage. The plain black walls and floor, with few props, framed the actors, allowing them to dominate this intangible space from the moment they enter. The corners of the stage were frequently used, to hem in and expose characters, its blank nature adding a subtle symbolism to every position – at once profound, but not distracting from the cut-and-thrust of the piece.

It is a work of mystery and confusion, of first lines, stammers, and unresolved lives. The single moment when the Police enter Karpinsky's house is shocking, and I don't believe I can truly relate my reaction to the instant. The play's ambiguous plot is interwoven with incredibly convincing characters, both through a brilliant script and a fantastic performance. True depth and sympathy is constructed without visible effort, as the people change as often as their setting, leaping from moments of bliss, to those of confusion, despair and heartbreak. The grief on stage is convincing – no mean feat – and Stanley's stammer left me hanging upon his every word. It is truly one of the most moving pieces of theatre I have seen for a long while, and yet, there are even sprinklings of humour, admittedly very grim, but that serve to frame the tragedy, and entertain.

Even the scene changes I found impressive, actors still in character when moving boxes around, and a mocking, light-hearted music entirely at odds with its tragedy – an example of the beautiful juxtaposition which laces the production. The aesthetics are photographic; the sudden movement of characters, followed by periods of lingering stillness, each moment caught, painted onto the stage, the left to shatter.

I am dicing over whether to say – 'I only wish the play were longer' – but, in truth, the lack of complete conclusion is captivating in its elegance, and I do not think the human mind can cope with such immersion for an overly-extended period of time. The play is beautifully crafted; a work of art, and of true emotional power. When it finishes, the characters break away all too suddenly, leaving you in confusion, suspicion and even a fleeting feeling of loneliness. See it – it will not take up much of your time, and will leave you questioning yourself, your society, and why you don't go to the theatre more often.


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