Tim Bano reviews new writing The Trip at The Cellar.
It causes a certain amount of trepidation when a play begins, “So I woke up one morning”. It’s like a song that starts with “I was walking down the street” or a book with “Once upon a time”: clichéd and only really suitable for children or parody. There was not much in the play that stemmed this sense of shallowness, the sense that something was missing. Tommy meets Anita on the Tube and falls in love. Tommy’s brother, Sam, and his wife Hannah are pleased to see him so happy. Things turn sour. It’s as monotonous and predictable as it sounds.
Fen Greatley as Tommy is very good: he bounces on to the stage with vigour and a smile. The joy at finding love is meant to be intense, and Greatley presents it very well, but the happiness does not last for long and darker emotions soon take over. Throughout, Greatley adapts and is the most convincing thing about the show. Brook Hewett is relaxed and comfortable as Sam, while Gupreet Narwan, playing Hannah, is slightly drier. But the dynamic between the two of them is good – Sam speaks more naturally and caringly about his brother than Hannah, which is as it should be.
Omid Pakseresht is clearly a very capable writer, but little about this play is particularly bold. A chance meeting, a date, a party and then into the half-light where hallucination meets reality. The second half of the production is better as we begin to lose sight of what is real and what is not, a reminder of a discussion towards the beginning of the play about drugs and reality. Our role as audience members is not entirely clear: sometimes the actors deliver monologues direct, sometimes we are intruders on the scenes that play out in their lives, sometimes we are somewhere in between. The minimalistic set design adds to our uncertainty.
The play is about reality and the reality for me is that if you write about love, happiness, death and the infinite realms of the mind then you have to convey that words, to some extent, are inadequate. We are told that Tommy loves Anita but the terms in which we are told are too simple. Thus the characters are not real enough for us to care about them. I am not looking for ‘the way she leaves her underwear on the floor’ or ‘the number of times he goes to the loo in the night’ kind of reality. Just something a little more.
Two stars **