Treats - Richmond Theatre (Review)
Review by David Munro
TREATS is a revised version of a play first seen at the Royal Court in 1975 when the dramatist Christopher Hampton was an up and coming playwright.
Originally featuring Jane Asher, James Bolam and Stephen Moore it’s a three performer – eternal triangle piece which only the skill of the players save from becoming a cliché.
The current production features two well-known TV artists; Billy Piper and Kris Marshall, and a scion of a theatrical dynasty, Laurence Fox.
The play opens with Ann (Billy Piper ) who, having just ditched her former boyfriend Dave (Kris Marshall), is now living with her current boyfriend Patrick (Laurence Fox).
Dave then turns up, having decided he wants her back, and makes it clear he won’t be leaving until he gets his way. The rest of the play revolves around whom Ann will finally select; the safe, but boring, Patrick or unfaithful, dominant Dave – each of the trio suffer in turn and have their big theatrical moments but the playwright ducks the issue and the play ends not with a bang but with a whimper.
All three cast members deliver fine performances; Billie Piper proves that she is not just a TV flash-in-the pan and turns in a nicely judged performance with many telling moments, including an emotional crying scene which could have been embarrassing but which she successfully kept under control.
Her Ann is a girl who wants peace in her time but is so torn between the combatants that she’s not sure how to achieve it. In the end, she’s let down by Christopher Hampton who refuses to allow the character a satisfactory resolution of her problem.
Nonetheless Miss Piper makes the most of the part she is given and even achieves making Ann a sympathetic character despite her vacillations.
Kris Marshall eschews his usual Hugh Grant type performance to make Dave a wisecracking bully and a rather unpleasant character; nonetheless, he achieves giving him a modicum of charm so that his attraction for Ann is not totally unbelievable.
He also manages to extract every ounce of humour out of his lines and, in some cases, makes them seem funnier than they are.
At the same time, he successfully projects the darker, meaner underside to the character and the cruelty inherent in his sarcastic humour and determination to re-assert his hold over Ann. In short, a very good, effective performance and one I did not expect having only seen him “on the box”.
Laurence Fox plays Patrick as the lamb to Dave’s arrogant wolf; he’s a gentle soul and one could see that his attraction for Ann was that he is the antithesis of Dave.
He is a meek and mild “anorak” and Laurence Fox ‘s performance catches the character exactly making him likeable as well as, at times, pathetic. His character is dominated by the other two but Mr Fox ensures he is not swamped by them and projects a well defined persona.
Laurence Boswell, the director, has clearly done the best he can and wisely has given his cast their heads to establish the characters as they read them whilst disguising, with a lot of subtle bits of business, the inherent weakness of the script.
My overall reaction to the evening was that (with apologies to signor Pirandello) here were three characters in search of an author – three excellent and worthwhile performances that deserved a better mise-en-scene. I’m afraid they may not get the acclaim in the West End that they deserve for this reason.
If, like me, you enjoy good acting for acting’s sake you should not be put off; despite everything, you’ll enjoy the evening for Miss Piper and Messieurs Marshall and Fox are, in their own right, real Treats.
Treats by Christopher Hampton.
Directed by Laurence Boswell.
Designer – Jeremy Herbert.
Lighting – Mark Henderson.
Sound – Ian Horrocks-Taylor.
CAST: Billie Piper; Kris Marshall; Laurence Fox.
Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 IQJ.
Mon, February 12 – Sat, Feb 17, 2007.
Evenings: 7.45pm/Matinees Wed. & Sat: 2.30pm.
Box Office: 0870 060 6651.