Life is tough for a number of theatre companies in Oxford at the moment. The closure of the OFS Studio has robbed them of a key venue – forcing a search for alternative spaces. ElevenOne Theatre have transferred to the Moser Theatre in Wadham College for their new production of Michael Hastings’ controversial play about the marriage of TS Eliot and Vivienne Haigh-Wood - Tom and Viv.
The ‘theatre’ is an unusual one – given that most of the time it is the college badminton court. Vince Haig’s design makes best use of the available stage depth and allows Joseph Kenneway’s production to move swiftly between the many scenes demanded in the script.
Hasting’s play is a challenging piece in many ways – not least in the demands he makes on the two central characters. Helen Taylor embraces the challenge of capturing the fractured mental states of Vivienne with great skill and attention to detail. She has a huge journey to undertake and carries the audience with her throughout. She is well supported by the carefully nuanced Tom of Brian Earp. He is able to create a more sympathetic view of the character than the text might initially indicate.
The rest of the small cast seem perfectly cast bringing a lightness of touch to what could be a very draining and daunting piece of writing. Will Fournier is a particularly engaging as the feckless Maurice – mining the text to maximum comic effect.
As a play, Tom and Viv has flaws. The pacing and handling of the passage of time is not always successful and there are certain scenes that would be benefit from some judicious pruning. However the production keeps the action moving with a deft touch and captures the period detail with an elegant simplicity.
The Moser Theatre may not be the ideal place to stage this piece but ElevenOne are to be congratulated for taking the risk and for bringing a challenging piece of drama (with some impressive performances) to the audiences of Oxford.
- Katherine Evans
www.111theatre.co.uk for more details and how to book tickets