Review: An Intervention
A 90-minute engaging conversation
Before you watch this play you should know that there are vivid descriptions of alcoholism and suicide.
An Intervention is poignant in that it follows the ever-prevalent themes of friendship, military intervention and conflict. The in-the-round stage at Pembroke New Cellars created a necessary intimacy for this play, and it was beautifully navigated throughout – this is very difficult – an impressive feat from director Maia von Malaisé. The minimalist set of two chairs, a remote and a piece of rope made it all the more poignant.
The integration of Character A, Theo Tompkins, and B, Maddy Power, into the audience at the start was not too subtle – nor should it have been – and their ability to consistently keep acting when no one was looking is certainly commendable, and this audience engagement is something they kept throughout, with eye contact and stage movement constant.
From the very start of the play, Theo embellished his physical movements to great effect, clearly demonstrating A’s eclectic, opinionated, and youthful-but-smart personality; it worked well with the contrast of Maddy, who was often sitting down and walking around in a way that was still engaging, but also symbolic of how her more muted and conformist personality would grow during the play.
Theo’s monologue about his classmate Caspar was very impressive, as he managed to command the stage and take people on a real journey as if he was telling them the story in real life – this is very difficult to achieve, but at no point did it feel like he was ‘acting’. Throughout the play, during his conversations with Maddy, you really did feel like you were watching a passionate man who was struggling underneath being eaten away.
This is what made the on-the-surface light-hearted scene in the pub all the more harrowing – credit again must go to the director for managing to achieve this perfect balance with brave decisions like miming walking through an empty crowd and integrating slapstick humour that showed us the difference between the two characters, and how both had shrunk into shells of their former selves.
In their brilliant performance that made me consider my own friendships and relationships, and what role I played, the audience was moved from raucous laughter to real sadness in a matter of minutes, each act a distinct part of the journey that we were being taken on – although it certainly didn’t feel like that at all. It felt more like we were just watching two friends interact, and later the demise of the friendship and what it meant for both of them, and the fact that this was extremely engaging throughout is a great credit to both actors, as well as the playwright Mike Bartlett.
However, it would be unfair not to credit the backstage crew – particularly Sound & Lighting designers Tirza Sey and Phoebe Morse. The use of sound was innovative, and clearly, Tirza used some initiative with contemporary soundbites from long after the initial release of the play, with a particular focus on the invasion of Iraq and Ukraine.
These added a brilliant dimension to the play and managed to make a point about governments’ use of foreign intervention. This was a big risk as the play already focused on this topic a fair amount and was already bordering too much – but somehow Tirza pulled it off without at all detracting from the focus on the two characters.
The use of lighting was also effective both in concept and on the day application; every lighting change was sharp and effective. I liked the idea of using blue lighting to represent the hues of the television, as it has an added layer of showing the negative effect that ‘getting too involved’ in the news can have.
This worked especially well with the contrasting red when the two characters were interacting, suggesting that the consequences of this have real effects on relationships. The fading out at the end worked brilliantly, and that image of helplessness will stay with me for a long time.
My only criticism of the play, though, would be at the ending, which seemed perhaps a bit done before, and almost a cop-out. Arguably it would have been more realistic to see the last scene without Character B being involved – of course, drama does not need to be realistic, but this alternative ending arguably would have been more poignant to do. Nevertheless, Maddy’s brilliant acting in this scene dealt with the script perfectly – brilliant from start to finish in showing the character’s progression, she was especially good in this last act. Her emotional dialogue is something that truly moved everyone in the audience.
Overall, this is a brilliant, brilliant play that was made even better by all involved, and I would thoroughly recommend going!
An Intervention is showing on the 7th – 11th of March at 7:00 pm at Pembroke New Cellars. Book your tickets here.
Feature image credits: Emma Mortimer