Forever House

Mon 24th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Archie Hill

at 10:00 on 26th Aug 2015

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Pentagon Theatre’s production of Forever House is in many ways a disappointment. The cast, who are all students at Exeter University, show considerable promise and assurance despite their relative inexperience, but are let down by the somewhat unsatisfying script, the debut play of writer Glenn Waldron.

The original premise is promising: three separate stories set over a period of three decades, all set in the same terraced house in Plymouth as characters try, with varying success to escape from the ties and shadows of the past. Originally set in a crumbling house in Devon, the creative foursome – directors James Bowen and Freddie McManus as well as producers Claire Crawford Róisín Devine – adapted to the blanker setting of the Fringe well, with only a single red sofa on stage, the rest of the house left up to the imagination as different characters projected their own visions upon it.

Forever House worked well in all three parts, particularly when presenting characters about whom we learn more, casting them in a new and unsettling light. In the opening, the relationship between Graham (an excellent James Bush) and the young Richard (Alex Thomas, who manages to capture something of the awkward humour of the character) is both darkly comic and then, all at once, deeply troubling.

Yet the script fell on less confident ground: the play is coloured by the unexpected events of the first part, and the later characters’ attempts to come to terms with the events feel unconvincing. The exchange between Laura (Georgia Leach) and estate agent Becci (a wonderfully warm, funny Elizabeth Ryan) works well on its own, but struggles to connect to what we have seen earlier. The idea that all the characters in the house are caught in the grip of the past is a nice one, allowing secrets to slowly reveal themselves, but I feel like there could be more to explore. The final part is the weakest of three; the ending is somewhat underwhelming, despite strong chemistry between the characters of Lucy (Poppy Harrison) and Mark (Seb Posner) who work well together.

Maybe I’m being unfair: there’s lots to commend this performance, with potentially lots to expect from all its young talent. However, the cast are let down by the script which raises serious issues but never quite manages to draw them all together to a satisfying conclusion.

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Anna Fleck

at 11:18 on 26th Aug 2015

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A word of advice: do your research before you enter the Pentagon Theatre. I didn't, and I didn’t get it. I still don’t really get it.

Forever House is a three-act play about three different couples. Set in the same house over 13 years, the narrative plots are incestuously interconnected. In the third act, this is pushed too far to retain any credibility as a realistic story. The play tries to cram too much into the space of 50 minutes and this creates a jarring sensation as the plot stutters forward in breaks and bounds with minimal background context or further elaboration.

The second act was the strongest part of the performance, with Lizzie Ryan and Georgia Leach bouncing off one another as two strong female characters. Ryan’s comic timing is impeccable and although her accent is more closely aligned to Bristolian than the confessed Plymouth, she is by far the strongest actor of the play. Her bubbly loudmouth character provoked shouts of laughter from the audience, especially when she repeatedly chortles, “you slag” down the phone, a cheeky grin spread across her face and a knowing look nodded suggestively at Becci who stands stoically to one side. Unfortunately, the other performances were sometimes lacking, with corpsing on stage and accents slipping in all directions.

I am unsure as to whether as an audience member I misunderstood the jokes, or if the script is meant to be melancholy exploiting self-involved characters at their own expense. Since Becci’s biggest problem is that she and her husband can only afford a flat in East London, I am disinclined to feel sympathetic towards her. Instead of a sob story I felt her rudeness and high opinion of herself could have been taken further to bring out the humour of her character. However, credit should be awarded to the actors for their naturalistic delivery and for mastering Mamet-speak. Through interrupting one another they create awkward pauses and clashes of conversation and these help build tension that is integral to the play.

The foundations of a gripping mystery are present, and with a little work, this play could grow into something brilliant and quite unique. Presently however, Forever House doesn’t quite cut it for me. With such a rich plethora of high-class new writing at the Fringe this year, Glenn Waldron’s play gets lost among the thousands of half-baked Edinburgh Fringe productions.

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