I KNEW YOU
The Door, Birmingham REP, Tuesday 3rd October, 2017
This new piece from Birmingham writer Steven Camden aka Polarbear runs for less than an hour but it’s fifty minutes of cracking theatre. Three characters perform monologues, setting the scene, gradually revealing their history: Patrick walked out on Angela and their 8 year old son twenty years ago. A chance sighting by one of Angela’s friends reveals that not only is Patrick back in town but he’s dying from cancer. Angela is thrown into turmoil: should she even tell son Nathan, now 28 and a stay-at-home dad? Is there room for Patrick in the lives he left behind?
Lorna Laidlaw (the formidable Mrs Tembe in TV’s Doctors) exudes warmth and humour as Angela. The delivery is impeccable, the timing, the characterisations – it’s a masterclass in monologue performance and, beyond the performance, we feel for Angela and her predicament. As son Nathan, Brenton Hamilton too demonstrates an aptitude for storytelling and comic timing. Roderick Smith’s Patrick doesn’t yield many laughs – he’s the selfish one of the trio, but he speaks Polarbear’s lines with pathos, evincing our empathy.
When at last the characters interact, director Daniel Bailey cranks up the tension by drawing out moments of silence after all the wordiness. Emotions burst out, voices rise and fall – Bailey does the exquisite script justice in his handling of the dynamics.
And that writing! When she hears her ex is back, Angela describes her reaction: “I can feel my blood. My head is full of photographs and arguments.” Bloody wonderful. The genius is in the detail. Throwaway details of modern life, ironic observations of human nature, all wrapped up in this neat little package.
The piece lacks nothing, delivers everything, but I can’t help wanting more or to see it all again.
Funny, touching, insightful and fabulous.