Ink

Sat 6th – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Tanjil Rashid

at 11:45 on 18th Aug 2011

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The publicity material for Laura Lexx’s debut play, Ink, proclaims a “dedication to exploring personal protest through words and worlds”. Exploring the personal disintegration of a grieving estate agent, Luca, mourning the loss of his job, his father, and his lover, Ink lives up to this bold claim; Luca’s obsessive impatience with words stands for the futile attempt to search for meaning in a world whose everyday tragedies – in this play, 7/7 and the “credit crunch” – belie a nihilism they cannot bring themselves to accept, while Luca’s hallucinations reveal an ultimately failed attempt to create a meaningful world, albeit a solipsistic one existing only in the mind of one desperate, depressed man. But it is Luca’s airheaded bimbo of a flatmate, adeptly acted by director-playwright Laura Lexx herself, who best expresses this nihilism; “people date, people fuck, people die”, she exclaims, impatient with Luca’s solemnity, which actor Peter Byrom carries over rather well.

Yet Ms Lexx fails to convey her message about the media with any authenticity. “Ink sets out to deal with the hypocrisy of a national media”, says the publicity material. Yet random references to the London Lite, the Times and the Independent, and a set consisting almost solely of old newspapers, do not entail a meaningful meditation on the media. Sure, Luca has his vaguely amusing hallucinations of jobbing journalists out to twist facts to create compelling copy, but Ms Lexx ends up doing the same thing – wrapping big issues in hallmark-card sentimentality about beauty and truth, etc. When she’s doing that at all: most of the play actually consists of banal chitchat, the point of which was much beyond this reviewer. Perhaps it was too subtle. What has clearly happened is that Ms Lexx set out to say something about the media but ended up getting distracted by the psychology of grief. And the better for it.

The management of rising tensions demonstrated dramatic craft worthy of a two-a-penny creative writing course. This is no insult; a grasp of structure, however unoriginal, is better than no structure at all. There was one good metaphor in the whole play, but a fairly good one at that – the black-and-white colours of the world of print standing for the black-and-white worldview the media propagate: simplistic, but effective. The former, as it happens, could summarise the play as a whole. One wishes the same could be said for the latter.

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Craig Slade

at 11:55 on 18th Aug 2011

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The first sentence of this play’s online synopsis read “Ordinary man blown up by terrorists – he made jam and had a son.” Going to see the play, this level of manic surrealism was the sort of tenor I expected from the script, but it was not to be.

What was to be was a relatively normal play about modern society and the sort of cover the media gave to victims following the 7/7 bombings. Frustratingly unrelatable characters who argued with and annoyed each other for the first twenty minutes transferred this annoyance to the audience remarkably well; I found myself with nothing but dislike for all involved.

Although the writing was quite strong, the cast still managed to believe that it was more powerful than it was. Characters often spouted on, seemingly enamoured with the gravity of the clichéd principles they were pouring out upon us. While it was, at least, a well written script – potent where it needed to be, witty and natural dialogue and good plot progression – it was let down in part by second rate acting. Some cast members were rooted to the spot, others lacked the right expression in their speech (often parts of the script that seemed to call for a sombre tone were delivered angrily), and there just wasn’t the chemistry between cast members that a play with this much emotion called for. They all seemed too cold and uninvolved with each other.

If there were standout actors, they were Steven Graney and George Weightman as “Person 1” and “Person 2”; two hallucinatory visions on the part of Luca who had come “from the broadsheets” after he had supposedly written to them. The Ant and Dec dynamic between the duo worked remarkably well, and for once some of the script’s good jokes (and the script did have good jokes) were actually converted into laughs. We even saw some stage directions when the ‘twins’ crossed and uncrossed their legs in quick succession, to another chuckle from the audience. In this strangely heightened reality of Luca’s madness we were treated to some apparently heightened acting, however unintentional the shift was. Writer and director Laura Lexx also played annoying housemate Jo, and while her performance was solid, I still couldn’t bring myself to myself to like her character. The rest of the cast, on the whole, seemed somewhat too impassive in their relationships onstage.

The play seems to have suffered from Lexx’s overstretching of herself; having to write, act a major role and direct perhaps made the latter suffer, which leaves the direction in this piece with an unsatisfying aftertaste.

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Comments

Dante Jackson; 22nd Aug 2011; 00:07:09

7/7 an “everyday tragedy”? Wow. Even if it was, how did it ‘belie’ a [sic] nihilism rather than reveal it? Who are the ‘they’ that cannot accept this nihilism? Is he an Estate Agent or has he lost his job? A solipsistic world that contains hallucinations of other minds? Do you know the difference between a semi-colon and a colon? What’s with the 92-word sentence? I’m going to have to see this play now purely because you’ve given it such a thoughtless review. I’ll be back.

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