Image may contain: Poster, Face, Novel, Book, Advertisement, Human, Person

REVIEW: Harrogate

An innovative and fascinating production

I was really bloody excited for this show. The publicity is gorgeous (see above), especially the trailers- yes, that's right, not one trailer, but THREE. And they were all absolutely beautiful.

So I think when I sat in the Playroom waiting for it to start, I had very high expectations. And they were completely fulfilled, and indeed surpassed.

Harrogate is an intense, uncomfortable and tender two-hander about the love a father has for his daughter, both appropriate and not so appropriate, what happens to a marriage when the love is gone, and the way people drift into different versions of themselves.

Image may contain: Musician, Musical Instrument, Footwear, Shoe, Sitting, Leisure Activities, Clothing, Apparel, Plywood, Hardwood, Floor, Wood, Person, Flooring, Human, Chair, Furniture

credit: Olivia de Hennin

The play begins with a fairly normal conversation between a father and daughter- or so we think. As it progresses, it feels increasingly off-kilter and confusing, and then the audience's stomach plunges to the floor at the end of the scene when a more sordid narrative is revealed. The play is constructed in three parts, with 'him' (George Solomou) tying the parts together and 'her' (Anna Wright) playing the three different women in his life.

My favourite part of the play in terms of the writing is its capacity to avoid cliches. The father is not 'bad' in any way; the audience can understand his situation and both sides of the argument, which is what makes it so tender and smart. On the other hand, however, the dialogue often returns to story-telling mode, forcing the actors to do a classic Corpus Corner type monologue, gazing into the distance, which was a shame because in my mind that was the wall of their apartment.

Image may contain: Floor, Table, Clothing, Apparel, Flooring, Hardwood, Sitting, Person, Human, Furniture, Chair, Plywood, Wood

credit: Olivia de Hennin

I think the real stand out of the whole play, however, was Anna Wright's performance. She has to play three very different and in-depth characters in the course of the hour and a half, and they are all pulled off magnificently, right down to the little ticks of each woman. She exits the stage as a teenage girl and seamlessly returns a 50 year old doctor. These performances have to be subtly different, but also echo each other, and Wright does this with precise control.

George Solomou is also excellent as 'him'; his portrayal of the father as a man weighed down by his own shame, obsessed with the past, is very well-thought through and convincing.

Image may contain: Housing, Building, Flooring, Room, Indoors, Furniture, Apparel, Clothing, Person, Human

credit: Olivia de Hennin

Refreshingly, the set design was excitingly different to the typical domestic Corpus set (couch diagonal across the stage, sideboards, maybe wall paper if we're getting really crazy). Rather, we had black curtains with a metallic, shining material hung across them, a high table with stools and a drinks cabinet neatly hanging at Corpus corner. The set design was very effective and minimalist, using the space efficiently to create a modern apartment atmosphere. It was just a shame that we didn't get to see a bit more use of the lovely material: at the end of the play, it was used to reflect a rainbow of rich colours, and I wish I could have seen it used to better effect throughout the play.

Both aesthetically and dramatically, this play was really excellent. I wouldn't usually be ready to give this many stars, but I feel that it was a really skilfully put together production. It was such a fascinating evening of just, very good theatre, and I would really encourage everyone to go see this innovative production.

4.5/5 stars

cover image credit: Olivia de Hennin