Weak at the knees
12 April 2017
Lily James on seeking staying power in Hidden
The bones of Hidden don’t stand up to much exposure, but fleshed out by Battered Soul it takes on a character of sweetness and lightness that has pulled up the play’s socks, smartened it up, and put it to work.
For a play about interconnectivity, it can often come across like a series of extremely good audition pieces: a set of actor’s head shots rolled into a piece of theatre.
But Harvey Comerford and Georgina Franklin make what could be a series of Alan Bennett-style Talking Heads (all brand names and suburban sexuality), into your neighbours, your friends: goofy, sad, romantic, flickering with inner life and desire.
Each gets a moment of real, shiny, this-is-great-ness: Comerford’s erotic minutes on the morning train are so carefully realised, delivered with a delicacy of touch that empties it of sleaze. No-one even really notices when the punchline comes. I just want someone to touch my leg on the train too.
Franklin’s business woman with a Clearblue dilemma is a solid, tender piece of characterisation that never stepped in to ‘I am every woman’ territory. She wasn’t every woman. She was this woman, with a life as fantastic and as crap as life is. I knew her. A slightly crass gag about McDonald’s gets a make-over, Franklin oozing with empathy and respect for her character.
It’s funny. The audience laughs in quick staccato barks, even louder and shorter when they’re confident that it’s definitely not ok to laugh. Comerford skates over the surface of some murky waters with particular panache. He also does good work with his pacing which means his flow is rarely interrupted and lines rarely drowned out.
Alex Prescot’s direction is generous, notable as much for what he leaves alone as what he does. There’s no mime, no endless hands pressed-to-faces and imagined flip-phones. The soundscapes are unobtrusive but necessary: they go some way to mitigate the audition-y, confessional set-pieces and reposition them in the world.
I’m dubious of the script’s staying power. I’m not sure if this is a play that will be being performed two years from now. I’d be more excited to catch up with Comerford and Franklin in 2019.
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Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca