British novelist and essayist Michael Frayn is also a highly regarded and prolific playwright (32 plays to date). One of those plays, currently running in the basement of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, is a 1993 comedy cryptically entitled “Here.”
Darren Ivany and Laura-Marie Smith star in Rock Solid Productions’ version of “Here” running at the Barbara Barrett Theatre in the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre until Saturday. It’s the production company’s debut play. — Submitted photo
The “here” in question is an empty flat into which a young couple is moving, a circumstance which, it is universally acknowledged, is apt to be traumatic.
Furniture and appliances are moved in: a pumped-up mattress on the floor, a table and two chairs, bicycle and books, some kitchen equipment. Already inhabiting the flat is a stuffed bear named Theodore, left behind by a former tenant.
The newcomers are an exuberant and radiant Cath (played with sparkle by Laura-Marie Smith) and her gangly, fuss-budget partner, Phil (Darren Ivany), who has a voluble, opinionated and somewhat existential take on life. They cavil over placement of furniture. And they rough and tumble on and around the bed, until a nosy neighbour comes calling. This third wheel is an interfering widow from the flat below (persuasively played by Irene Duma).
In the second act, bed and table have been repositioned and the twosome are starting to get on one another’s nerves at close quarters. Prodding and goading, they argue about whether the bathroom door should be closed or half open and over which side of the repositioned bed is whose. When the inquisitive neighbour arrives, Phil hides, while the two women confide in one another over a cup of tea.
In the third and final scene of the play, Cath is visibly pregnant and the couple is moving out. First the bed goes, then the table and chairs, then the potted tree, and the mirror and the big blue ball, followed by books and bike, and by Theodore, of course. And the set is again empty, except for the broken swivel chair that their neighbour had given them.
“Here” is a cute and amusing piece, although somewhat longer and certainly wordier than it needs to be to make its point. But it probably had to be made at least this long for London’s West End
theatres, which cherish their intermission, during which they sell overpriced alcoholic beverages.
Directed by Ruth Lawrence, featuring Laura-Marie Smith, Darren Ivany and Irene Duma, the Rock Solid Productions rendering of Michael Frayn’s “Here” continues in the Barbara Barrett Theatre until Saturday.
Curtain time is 8 p.m., with an additional matinee performance on Saturday at 2 p.m. Including a 15-minute intermission, the play is over before 10 p.m.
On opening night, the curtain call was warmly applauded by a small but appreciative audience that had bravely ventured out into the snowy waste.