Muswell Hill, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, February 2012

Losers. In and out of the kitchen at a dinner party in Muswell Hill, talking about their personal concerns, while the Haiti earthquake stands as a background to keep things in perspective.

Karen, Simon, Jess, Tony/ all photos Robert Day

The losers occasionally lose it, but the hostess Jess, brilliantly portrayed by Jasmine Hyde, is a winner who can keep everything in perspective. And while the losers exhibit their weaknesses, Torben Betts’ play makes us laugh out loud. The text gives the actors space to interact, in a way superbly directed by Sam Walters — this is a play written by an actor, and it flows beautifully.

Katie Hayes enters as the first guest, a tedious chatterbox named Karen in a purple crochet dress, but she is soon sidelined by Dan Starkey as a pint-sized, leftie intellectual conspiracy theorist named Simon, who seems to have answers aplenty until he loses it. He’s lonely and funny and needs a girlfriend, and when he sees a picture of Jess’s younger sister Annie on the fridge he purloins it.

Mat and Annie

She walks in later, gorgeous and confident, until you realise why her big sister has said she is very low on self-esteem. Tala Gouveia gives a perfect representation of this damaged young woman, so very determined to introduce her new sixty-year-old Shakespearean director boyfriend, Tony engagingly played by Timothy Block. She says he’s her fiancé, but he’s not as naïve as some of the others, and our hostess Jess sees through him right away.

Simon, Jess, and Karen

It all starts with Mat, short for Matthew, but spelled like doormat, the engagingly superficial partner for Jess. His charming insecurity was beautifully portrayed by Leon Ockenden. And it ends … well, go and see for yourself. There is love and destruction in the air, along with a mixture of verbal clumsiness and defiant accuracy, and the wit is both spoken and unspoken, as when Simon replaces the picture of Annie that he stole from the fridge.

Six wonderful actors, with superb direction, made for an unmissable evening. Performances continue until March 10 — for details click here.

Leave a Comment