Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Review The Wasp


The Wasp
by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm

Hornet From Hell
http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/

When the internet first took hold, one of the first successes was Friends Reunited - school reunions writ large online. Many of course were delighted to trace those they had known from their schooldays.

On the other hand, for others it was a nightmare scenario ... 

Two married 30 somethings meet up outside a cafe. Carla's character is immediately established - she's a cash-strapped hard-faced blonde (Lisa Gorgin), chain-smoking - and pregnant.

She's joined by a demure, well-spoken, well-off ex-classmate (Selina Giles), with an air of Charlotte Rampling, who has contacted her through Facebook.

They seem to be polar opposites, in the past one a bully, the other a victim, but now the balance of power has changed, they're all growed up with a grown-up proposition in prospect.

This is a drama-thriller that at first shifts the dynamics rather well. It sets up our expectations, often incorporating issues and news stories which have appeared in the media, only to snatch them away.

It also allows the two actors to run the gamut of  their acting repertoire in a positive way. That's its strength and, a few instants excepted when it lagged a bit, the first act is suitably tense and gripping.

It was in the second act, despite director Anna Simpson's best efforts and a pleasing, efficient set design from Mike Leopold, that the moments of lag started to overwhelm the plot and it falls apart.

There are rather too many on-the-nose explanations, including the origin of the play's title which seem torturous to say the least.

In fact, we began to wonder whether we had wandered into some computer mash up of a David Attenborough nature documentary and John Fowles's The Collector with a touch of Stephen King's Misery. 

Or, despite committed performances, we almost expected it would turn out to be some kind of elaborate game knowingly played between two warring friends, trying to outwit each other and we in the audience were the victims of a theatrical "sting" (it wasn't).

The Wasp goes from plot point to plot point and plot to plot, as if it were tasting a whole range of possible stories, a trend we have noticed in a large number of new plays during the past couple of years.

It becomes a curious amalgam of a thriller - welding together a number of themes - more successfully in its first act than in the denouement. The ending was one we had thought of near the beginning but dismissed as one of the snatched-away scenarios.

However, frankly, with all the jumping around from tall tale to tall tale, we stopped caring.

Nevertheless, it's a slick, well-acted  production and if you're not too pernickety about stereotypes and plausibility even in The Wasp's lunatic, smoke and mirrors world, there are worse ways of spending an evening. It's also probably a movie, rather than a theatre, script.   An amber light.

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