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Computer-based fantasy leaves questions unanswered



Review by David Munro

TO REVIEW a play whose ending cannot be disclosed postulates a problem for a dramatic critic.

In this case, the problem is compounded by the fact that this dramatic critic did not find the rest of the play, even without the ending, very credible and with the ending even less so.

I think I may be permitted to tell you that the play opens with a woman, played by Sarah Thomas, arriving to take up possession of a furnished flat.

Shortly thereafter, she attempts to replace a light bulb and injures her leg so she is confined to the flat for the rest of the performance. The light bulb never apparently was replaced, or if it was it was never lit and this obscurity permeated the set and the rest of the play.

Suffice it to say that a helpful neighbour, Ida Smith (Wendy Windle), takes control, or so she thinks, and tries to help the Sarah Thomas character who is now named, (and I don’t think, dear reader, the author would mind my telling you this), Janet Owen, to cope with her infirmity.

Janet - when not talking to Ida or the other characters who invade her privacy to wit another neighbour, Jimmy Panatelli (Kenny Reid), a Doctor (Richard Myrad) and a soi-disant ex-lover, Jason, (Charles Neville) - writes letters to an MP and holds discussions with her laptop which appears omniscient, knowing, and even criticising, what she is doing.

As you appreciate, a touch of fantasy permeates this play and I will go no further than to say when all is revealed the word 'McGuffin' comes to mind.

I felt very sorry for the actors in this farrago of nonsense. They do their best, and their best is very good, as is Martin Cort’s direction which whips the action up into a spanking pace which almost, but not quite, makes one suspend belief for long enough to accept that there is some sense, or even a rational explanation, for what is happening on stage.

Despite all their valiant efforts, I was unable at the final curtain to fathom what message the authoress, Mary Renton, intended the play to deliver.

Was it a moral tract, as Janet is all sweetness and light for most of the play, delivering dollops of advice and comfort to all around her while at the same time in a dilemma with Jason, her voice from the past?

Or did she intend the play as a fantasy pure and simple? This and other questions I found unresolved when I left the theatre and remain so as I try to review the play fairly.

I must admit my companion was not assailed with the same doubts as I, and found the whole evening delightful and amusing, so it may be I am reading too much into the play and its authoress’s motives.

I therefore can only advise you to go and see it and make your own mind up – you could find the experience rewarding.

Dear Mr Kennedy… by Mary Renton.
Directed by Martin Cort.
Designed by Jonathan Boast.
Lighting by Nicki Rensten.
The Hen And Chickens Theatre St Pauls Road, Highbury Corner, Islington Performances at 8pm Tuesday to Saturday - Sunday 4pm (No performance Monday)
Box Office: 020 7704 2001

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