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A jaw-dropping evening of excitement and intrigue



Review by Paul Nelson

THERE is a fascinating play at the Union called Tales from A Pier, and the main reason for its fascination is that it opens many doors and only manages to close some of them.

Whether or not this is deliberate of the author, or carelessness is hard to say. The play has been written in a style that makes me feel sure it is deliberate; such a deal of attention is hardly likely to be carelessly thrown away.

It is also steeped in symbolism, starting with the title. Piers don't usually lead anywhere; they are the end of the road. If you don't jump then this is the point where you have to turn and face whatever it is that you are either running from, or that which is chasing you.

In other situations, they are the embarking point, the beginning not the end.

Then there is the black topcoat. With its lining of many colours, it is equally enigmatic. It carries with it the warning that whatever happens, the wearer must not put his hand in the pockets and disclose what is there. A truly portable Pandora's box!

The play begins in a bedroom at the end of a night's love-making, or is that two months of bliss?

Which ever you plump for, the time has come for Heath to move on. The sex is good and he is good at it, but then that has been the story of his life.

His heart has never really been in anything he has ever done. He has been prompt, efficient, diligent, but always fired and forced to find another job.

Maddy, his partner, is equally disillusioned. She is demanding, delightful, destructive. Among what passes for bored banter between the two, comes the desperation they both feel.

For his part, she is just being clinging and tiresome; for hers, he is the prospective father of the child she wants.

Too late, he hears her murmur that she is pregnant as he leaves.

Maddy becomes the restless sea, cold, dispassionate, fearsome. Heath has plunged into the sea and it has carried him across the ocean. To what? To a realization of himself and others that their situations have to be resolved, their demons faced.

Without being tiresomely political the play becomes passionate in the greater themes of love and hate.

Heath's wife is cold and distant. On the only day he was late for work, due to Maddy, his world had been destroyed.

For the first time he had not been sacked from his job, the job was vapourised in 9/11.

He partially suffers from guilt that he too was not destroyed, but Eddie, a convert to Islam, last wearer and owner of the coat, feels no guilt. That's just another colour in the lining and is meaningless among the rest.

Peter too, lost in his lonely fishing hobby, without any tackle, indeed he has nothing, has to face his Apollyon, his moment of being cast out almost of his own mind.

This play, I will tell you no more of the plot, is written initially in a ear-catching but flippant style, a style which, before it becomes irritating, is taken over by a much more profound voice, one that makes you sit up.

The author, who has written several plays before, mainly staged at The Union, is surely now on the threshold of recognition.

It seems nowadays to be standard for me to say that a production at The Union is acted by a worthwhile cast and directed with the attention to detail we have become accustomed to from its director.

Once again, The Union has provided a jaw-dropping evening of excitement and intrigue.

Tales From A Pier by Andrew Muir, Directed by Ben de Wynter, Designed by Holly Best, Lighting designer Steve Miller. WITH: Richard Brake (Heath), Jan Goodman (Maddy/The Sea), Ian Groombridge (Eddie), Chloe Harbour (Mary), Howard Teale (Peter). Presented by Slipstream Productions at The Union Theatre, Union Street, Southwark SE1. Tickets 020 7261 9876.

Photograph shows Jan Goodman (Maddie), and Richard Brake (Heath), and was kindly supplied by stagephoto.co.uk

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