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Theatre review: A Delicate Balance 
2nd-Jun-2011 11:35 pm
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Penelope Wilton and Imelda Staunton on stage together is an exciting proposition. Maybe it was me being in a bad mood from the off but Albee's A Delicate Balance wasn't the vehicle I would have hoped for for the two of them. An alcohol-soaked family drama, it sees Agnes (Wilton) and Tobias (Tim Pigott-Smith,) who already have Agnes' drunken sister Claire (Staunton) living with them, unexpectedly welcome back daughter Julia (Lucy Cohu) who's just ditched her fourth husband. Also unexpected are their best friends Harry and Edna (Ian McElhinney and Diana Hardcastle) who've had a joint panic attack and decided to move in with them for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately although the performers are as strong as you'd expect, director James Macdonald has opted to have every line delivered at a snail's pace, which not only drags things out interminably but means when sections come up that clearly need to have some time taken over them, the impact is lost. The story also never quite got a handle on how far from realism it wanted to stray - the house guests turn from shivering with fear in the first act to bullying with a sense of entitlement in the second, without this ever being explained. Yet this didn't take the story into the surreal sphere it might have done. Andy was in one of those moods where he's determined to enjoy something, and by the first interval (of two) this held up but by the end he too was disappointed.

A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee is booking until the 2nd of July at the Almeida Theatre.
Comments 
2nd-Jun-2011 11:32 pm (UTC)
I think it was just played too straight. The play is a wonderful piece of writing - but it's very weird, very surreal. Here it seemed to be directed with little or no acknowledgement of that. And agreed about the lines being delivered so slowly! Especially in the first act, the dialogue is (or should be) very snappy. I was really, really looking forward to seeing this, but sad to say I too was disappointed.
3rd-Jun-2011 12:59 pm (UTC)
I know little or nothing about Albee in general or this play in particular but the tone of this production just didn't give me any idea what was supposed to be being achieved, in the weird second act especially.

And agreed about the lines being delivered so slowly!

I find this style of laboured delivery really self-indulgent (as in, "my voice is so full of awesome I shall allow you to enjoy it for as long as humanly possible") and unfortunately it seems to be in vogue at the moment, what with this, Scandal! and Twelfth! I'd blame the actors but when they're all doing it (and when I've seen them all in enough other things to know it's not their usual style) you have to look elsewhere.
3rd-Jun-2011 10:23 am (UTC)
I won't beat around the bush, I really really hated it. Probably one of the most miserable evenings I've had for years, not least for the fact that it was just far too long.
3rd-Jun-2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
Having two intervals didn't help. I can see why they'd rather not put one between the two scenes of Act II but surely that's a better option than stretching it out to just over 3 hours. It's a practical thing as well as an artistic one - I've seen some incredible 3-hour-plus shows where you just don't care what time it is, but when you start getting into "hmmm, how late am I going to get home?" territory you'd better be sure as hell what you're putting on stage is enough to hold the audience's attention.
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