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Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Theatre review: Serenading Louie 
20th-Feb-2010 08:00 pm
Theatrelandavatar
The Donmar Warehouse has had a strong couple of years, featuring some very explosive drama. Now they go for a more low-key interlude, but I can't say it's a gamble that pays off. American writer Lanford Wilson's plays are rarely imported to the UK and I can't say I'm surprised on this evidence. Serenading Louie (either the title is never explained or I nodded off when it was) takes place in suburban Chicago in the 1970s, with a single living room set representing the homes of both couples, Alex & Gabrielle (Jason Butler Harmer & Charlotte Emmerson) and Carl & Mary (Jason O'Mara & Geraldine Somerville.) Peter McKintosh's set is beautifully detailed, perhaps too accurate - apart from a green carpet and some blue furniture, everything from clothes to set is a very 70s brown, brown, BROWN. It's quite oppressive right from the start, and to me it had the odd effect of making live action look like a faded polaroid.

The last image is fairly apt I guess as reminiscence is at the heart of the play. Alex and Carl's careers are both on the up but their marriages are disastrous, and everyone spends a lot of time dwelling on "glory days" from the past, from childhood up to college years. At the heart of the play is the familiar worry that this is all there is to life and you're nobody special. I do often like the conceit of banal discourses that gradually reveal something more sinister underneath (Alan Bennett's Talking Heads are pretty much built on the idea) but from the start Wilson's scenes feel like a bit too much of an accurate slice of life: Although there's moments when it comes to life (Somerville, in the best scene by far, turns in a bitchy drunken performance in the first scene after the interval) most of it is as brown and dull as the surroundings. It's just over 2 hours long but it easily feels like three.

Michael Grandage's new season for the Donmar has just been announced and seems pretty exciting so hopefully this is just a glitch, but for now the Donmar turns in what is definitely a missable production.


Serenading Louie by Lanford Wilson is booking until the 27th of March at the Donmar Warehouse, followed by a tour to Salford, Leicester and Truro.
Comments 
21st-Feb-2010 09:07 am (UTC)
Thanks for the heads up on that. I'm kinda off the Donmar at the moment. I was far too cramped on them seats last time I went and told Gary I'm not going again.
21st-Feb-2010 11:24 am (UTC)
I always try (don't always manage) to get an end seat for that reason; leaning on the railing with one buttock hanging off the end isn't the most comfortable position but it beats being squashed between two people, unable to move and with your bollocks crushed.

At least them going for a completely obscure play had that upside, it wasn't completely sold out so there was some room to shuffle along the benches.
16th-Apr-2010 12:09 pm (UTC) - Truro performance
Anonymous
wish I'd seen this review before I went because I wouldn't have bothered going. We left after the first half. I found I hadn't seen anything in the first half that made me care what happened in the second. I thought the first half was much longer than it was, and it was all devoid of any emotional colour.
17th-Apr-2010 12:01 am (UTC) - Re: Truro performance
Unfortunate really, that this is the one they chose to send on tour. The Donmar's had so many good shows in the last year but they toured the stinker.
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