THE DELICIOUSLY melancholic sounds of Cassandra Wilson singing “Love is Blindness” surrounds the figure of “the Sinner Lady”, an endearingly vulnerable figure sitting uncomfortably on a bed, holding a glass of wine and bowing her head in an ambiguous gesture of submission and resolution. The scene is set for a gentle exploration of love and faithfulness that watches the fortune of an unnamed prostitute as she decides that, this evening, her life will change. When hopeful trick Jim Whitney, an average bloke in every respect enters her bedroom, in lieu of the economic trading of cash for sex, something simultaneously rupturing and life-affirming occurs: they actually talk to each other. What follows is an intriguing hour of dialogue in which we find out what really motivates these characters, challenging our preconceptions of what constitutes a successful relationship.
Gavin Kermack is magnificent as Whitney, a character so genuinely nice that in response to the Sinner Lady’s determined exclamation “Fuck me like I’m dying”, he meekly replies “This isn’t really helping…”. Kermack gives the character a warmth and honesty that immediately draws the audience’s affections and makes the rapidly developing relationship between Whitney and the prostitute conceivable. Jenny Clark is equally brilliant as the trapped prostitute breaking free from a life she no longer wishes to lead. Clark’s high, plummy voice and diminutive figure crystallise her childish playfulness and inquisitiveness. No props were needed to emphasise her girlish helplessness (though we were of course given one, a teddy bear which she hastily shoves under the bed when her guest arrives. This inherent youthfulness and innocence crucially maintains the ambivalence of her status as prostitute, and makes the subject of sex uncompromisingly ugly on the occasions when it raises its head above the surface talk of love and genuine connection Patrick Gleeson is grotesque as the finger-twitching, facial-ticking Charles. His towering figure dwarfs his co-actors, but his desperate hunching and insect-like squirming undermines any authority his height might proffer. He scuttles around like a pantomime sidekick clawing helplessly for a love he cannot grasp.
Little has changed script-wise since its workshop by the Marlowe Society’s Scriptlab, but writer/director David Hall has certainly found greater depth in his work. However, despite the tightness of the script and its subject matter, there is nothing intense about the performance. The centre of this fairly plot-less narrative is character. Every movement and word is convincing, and there is a disturbing reality about the relationships we witness. The play makes no sweeping attempts to tackle ancient grand themes (though there is an embarrassingly explicit nod of gratitude toward Plato), nor does it presume to answer the big questions that dominate our age. Indeed, in the most part it does not even acknowledge those questions. It is quite simply a complexly intriguing and subtle character study that competently delves into the inner mechanics of its characters without resorting to dialogue riddled with psychobabble. This is a must-see gem of a production, containing some of the best acting and most insightful direction you are likely to see this term.