Boston Marriage, St Mark's, Review

Submitted by Alex Eades on Wed, 1 May '13 11.26pm
Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Arkle Theatre Company
Phil Barnes (director), David Mamet (writer), John Weitzen & Steve Roberts (lighting), Jane Purves (staging)
Lorraine McCann (Claire), Kari Ann Shiff (Anna), Sian Fiddimore (Maid)
Running time

American playwright David Mamet had for a very long time been accused of only being able to write parts for men. No doubt relishing the confrontation, in 1999 he premiered Boston Marriage, which centres exclusively on women.

It was a firm two fingers up to the national press and, no doubt, to a number of his artistic contemporaries. A ‘Boston Marriage’ was a Victorian euphemism for two women who were engaged in a long-term physically and emotionally intimate relationship.

The relationship depicted within Mamet’s play is on the verge of disintegration, if in the most delightfully vile and witty kind of way. The two leads, Anna and Claire, bicker over the arrival of Claire’s newfound young lover and with the new arrival further complications and conflict unfold.

The plot, such as it is, comes second to the razor tongued dialogue that sparkles off the page. However, much like a Quentin Tarantino movie (very much influenced by Mamet), a fantastic piece of writing does not necessarily mean a fantastic piece of theatre, and this was sadly the case in some parts of tonight’s somewhat unbalanced production.

There is nothing overwhelmingly bad about any individual performance. On the contrary, for the most part, marks are hit pretty much dead on and the comic deliverance by all is faultless. There was, however, a distinct lack of energy on the stage, especially during the first quarter, which had only partially recovered by the close.

Some of the movement also seemed quite awkward throughout, as if the actors didn’t quite know what to do with themselves, appearing to change position without purpose on occasion. Perhaps a distraction from the distinct lack of spark on the boards, it didn’t really work.

Nonetheless, there are many laughs to be had and, toward the end, the overall performance does begin to find its feet.

But the occasionally uncomfortable viewing, not to mention the increasingly uncomfortable seating, means this was a relationship doomed to remain ‘just good friends’ rather than happily married.

Times: 23-27 April, 2013