Student productions have several things in common with the marriages of young lovers. They generally begin with high hopes and the best intentions but are ill-advised, and end with a lot of shouting, weeping and occasionally a blunt object flying at traumatised observers.
However, Ed Baranski’s play Blood Runs Thicker is not his first foray into the conjugal jungle, and joining him for this production is his friend and several times director Andrew Wilkinson. Although Baranski’s play is based upon the development in the relationship of a newly married couple when strange things start to happen in their home, there is a strong sense, as the writer and director of the piece sit together chatting about the work, that it is they who are the real married couple of this production. Not only are these two seasoned in their own fields, but they have grown and worked together, and are further blessed with a seasoned cast all fresh off the boards of the Oxford Playhouse from their parts in Call of the Wild.
Yet the new direction in which Wilkinson and Baranski are looking is a risk. Practised at dark comedy and slightly off the wall work (one of Baranski’s more niche productions was his twenty-four hour play about someone trying to get over a wall), Blood Runs Thicker is set to be a play that is intimate, intriguing and teases the audience with twists. Not that it is without moments of Baranski’s blacker sense of humour, the writer assures. Yet these two are also used to working with big casts in big spaces; running an intense show in a small space with a close-knit cast of four will be a real challenge. It is a challenge, however, that they look more than set to meet. Ever praising their excellent (and apparently very beautiful) cast, this actor-director partnership promises to be even more than the sum of their respective talents (which are not inconsiderable) largely because they have a chemistry which is both charming and electric. This play will be fresh ground for both Wilkinson and Baranski, but like the best marriages, they have learnt to share the burden. Wilkinson is firmly focused and definitely wears the proverbial trousers, but his genuine affection for Baranski, and the regard in which he holds him as a writer is clear. Baranski’s slightly ruffled hair, un-tucked shirt and unwillingness to take himself too seriously hints at his slightly looser approach, but his laughter at Wilkinson’s wry remarks and the complete trust with which he has abandoned his script to his friend also indicate a very special relationship between these two.
So, if you’re interested in seeing what is hopefully only the end of the beginning for a very promising duo, and a production that’s as coy about its twists as the writer and director aren’t about the physical attractions of their cast, watch Blood Runs Thicker.