The first thing to say about Matt Wilks’ rendition of Patrick Marber’s Closer is that it is not for the faint-hearted. With sex, violence, and strong language throughout, it’s certainly not one to take your grandparents to. However, the second thing that must be said about Closer is that it is absolutely sensational. Gripping from the opening scene, the director manages to maintain an intensity which lasts throughout, keeping the spectator, almost literally at times, on the edge of their seat.
For those that haven’t seen the movie Closer, it follows the lives of two couples as they engage in a game of serial partner-swapping, leading to a convoluted plot and emotionally self-combusting characters. As a play which deals with issues of trust, infidelity and emotional exploitation, a certain amount of finesse was required in order to make the play entertaining as well as moving. Whilst at times scenes seemed overworked and fatigued, the dialogue was in itself very sharp and very witty, with just the right amount of light-hearted humour to off-set the frequently intense and heated scenes of the play. Music is used effectively to mirror each mood and to compliment the humour in certain scenes.
As far as the actors are concerned, there isn’t a weak link between them. Despite initial reservations about caricatured and unconvincing characters, by the climax (and what a climax!) of the first part they had developed into three-dimensional, complex and intriguing people. Sam Hayward’s portrayal of the suave but sensitive Dan intrigues from the start, and each line is delivered with a certain charm and an acute awareness of comedic timing. Genevieve Cunnell’s performance as Alice begins strong, and despite occasional lapses in an American accent, goes from strength to strength, conveying the contradictory traits of power and vulnerability without ever making the audience doubt the credibility of the contrast. Rosanna Stoker’s depiction of the clever and fiercely independent Anna is well delivered, and Stoker deals with Anna’s emotional highs and lows in as colourful and realistic a way possible, given that her character is substantially less depthful and intriguing than those of her co-stars. However, it is Ollie Silver’s role as Larry which really captivates. The development in character from shy, retiring and awkward to ruthless, arrogant and manipulative is startling, and handled in a way which completely astounds the audience. Silver convinces as both the aggressor and the victim, leaving the audience bewildered about where exactly their sympathies lie.
It was also interesting to see how the production played with various theatrical elements. Three screens outlined in bold red dictate the various settings of each scene through monochrome pictures, be they of an online chat room or a restaurant. The predominance of red, black and white in almost all of the props and setting give the play a slick finish, whilst also leaving connotations for the dual nature of the play as dark but seductive. It’s a very dynamic piece of theatre, and every inch of the stage is utilised, most interestingly in a split scene about two separate conflicts between the couples. There are shifts and lapses in time which are seemingly unannounced, all of which keep the audience engrossed in the play as they work to fill in the missing pieces. This play does not just perform to an audience, but captivates and stimulates them; it is not a play to watch, but a play to be involved in.
All in all Closer is an absorbing production; intensity, comedy and intrigue are perfectly balanced, giving the audience an enjoyable, if shockingly explosive experience. It is well performed, well organised, and well directed. A must see.