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Rocard steals the show in intriguing family snapshot



Review by David Munro

FAMILY Snaps, now at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre for the rest of this week, is a sad little one act play set in a caravan park in Wales, dealing with the crisis in the marriage of Carol and Richard caused when she befriends Adam, a bedraggled 18-year-old vagrant, whom she meets sheltering from the rain in the caravan park.

It transpires that the couple had lost a child some years before and now Carol sees in Adam the chance of mitigating that loss by taking him in as a surrogate son.

Richard resents Adam and drives him away by telling him that Carol is mentally unstable and that he, Adam, is causing her distress. The play ends with the couple united in grief and the slight hope that they might assuage their loss with another child.

A trite plot, I agree, and one that has been done many times in the past.

In this case, the author, Paul Williamson, adds a modicum of tension by making Adam an enigmatic figure who may or may not be using Carol for his own ends.

For example, Adam finds her bag and apparently steals some money before he slips out into the night only to return the following morning with shopping and the change. A nice little touch, of which there were many during the course of the play.

Carol is beautifully played by Denise Rocard with just the right balance between sense and sensitivity.

In the early scenes, when she tries to put Adam at his ease and protect him from Richard, she decorates the script with delightful bits of business, such as surreptitiously dunking her biscuit in her tea when she thinks no one is looking.

She makes the transition from kind woman, out to help a piece of human flotsam, to the anguished mother seamlessly.

She plays her final scene with Richard, when it becomes evident how much the death of her child has unhinged her, with sincerity and without exaggeration. A well rounded and observed performance which proves that Miss Rocard is an actress of great potential and one to watch.

Adam was also well played by Neil Andrew and his scenes with Carol were convincing and believable.

He made a real character out of Adam, the harmless, or not so harmless lout, one sees aimlessly mooching about, just out of touch with reality and still in a way streetwise.

He quite rightly underplayed the enigmatic part of the role, although I found his final exit inexplicable, but this is a flaw in the script not the performance.

The character, as portrayed, would not have given up quite so easily. Mr Andrew’s CV indicates that he is a recent addition to the acting profession, after this performance I can only say 'watch this space'.

I must confess to being less convinced by Andrew Conway’s stereotypical Richard.

It was not a bad performance but he seemed unhappy in the role and he never convinced me he cared for Carol other than as a piece of property he wanted to protect for selfish reasons. Consequently, his final breakdown, when he confesses he too misses his son and suggests they 'try again', rang hollow.

Neil Keane kept the action going flawlessly in Sarah Mann’s cramped impression of a caravan interior, and avoided the inherent ennui in the hackneyed plot while giving his actors a chance to show their skills.

I don’t think that Paul Williamson has written a great play. Far from it, but it showed he has promise as a playwright and that there may be a good play just around the corner waiting to be produced.

It was the acting, especially the performance of Denise Rocard, which will make this a memorable evening for me and the reason why I would recommend a visit.

After all, when she wins the Bafta for her Hecuba it would be nice, wouldn’t it, to say you saw her first!

Family Snaps, by Paul Williamson. Director, Neil Keane; Set designer, Sarah Mann; Lighting, Stephen Lathem.
CAST: Denise Rocard; Andrew Conway; Neil Andrew.
Presented by Crackle Productions.
New Wimbledon Studio, The Broadway Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QG.
Tues, Oct 12 – Sat, Oct 18.
Evenings: 7.45pm / Matinees: Thurs: 5pm & Sat 3pm.
Box Office: 0870 060 6646

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