The Letter of Last Resort and Good With People Review
It’s an interesting and ambitious idea to take two very different plays by two different writers, and present them as a double bill; certainly the two plays presented here. It also creates ‘challenges’ (as we’re encouraged to describe life’s large and small problems) for anyone attempting to review the products of such decisions.
The Letter of Last Resort by David Greig is what might be described as an interesting attempt to revive absurdism, with post-modern reference to ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ as well as to theatre of the not-so-distant past.
Does it work? Well, Belinda Lang as the incoming Prime Minister, faced with a task she neither fully comprehends nor has any taste for, and Simon Chandler as ‘John’, a senior civil servant with a penchant for philosophical arguments, do their best with a thin premise and absurdist pauses and dialogue repetitions.
The letter of the title was, it seemed, one written to the commander of the last UK submarine to survive nuclear war, and intended to instruct him on the next move in a conflict already over. The subsequent arguments felt, for this reviewer, too much like being trapped in an endlessly repetitious dinner-party conversation, appearing to weigh options, but using them only to amuse.
When the ultimate Armageddon was back-projected at the end of the play, there was a small ripple of cheering from the audience, as if to prove that however easily amused we may seem to be, our final judgements are usually sound ones.
Good With People proved to be a quite different bucket of tools. David Harrower’s finely wrought script brought out the very best in Blythe Duff as Helen, owner of a small hotel in Helensburgh, where Evan waits out the time till his parent’s re-marriage.
But it’s Evan and Helen’s past history that we focus on here, for Evan bullied Helen’s son, and Helen seems neither to have forgotten nor forgiven one particular incident. The ensuing sub-text questioned our ability to forgive, our need to demonise ‘the other’, the gamut of little lies and small hypocrisies which make us the humans we are, all of it a rich vein which both actors sensitively explored.
One left with the hope that Harrower might explore at least some of the themes embedded in this play at greater length somewhere else. The text and the levels of acting in Good With People buff the stars awarded here up to four.
Show Times: varying (see Fringe Programme for details)
Ticket Prices: £18 (£13) August 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26
£ 20 (£15) August 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25