Cognitive scientist Ralph Messenger (Rob Edwards) seeks an objective definition of subjective personal experiences. His colleague Helen Reed (Kate Coogan), a novelist grieving the loss of her husband, sees them as the basis for all art. Their intellectual debate gives rise to both physical attraction and conflict, as Ralph is married and Helen a catholic.
David Lodge’s adaptation conveys the essence of his novel, Thinks, through the communication between just two characters. It works well although there is a slightly disjointed feel with the cerebral parts in the first half of the play and the second half more plot-driven.
David Thacker's expert direction ensures that, although dialogue-heavy, the play succeeds as a stage vehicle. The use of monologues is avoided and excellent use is made of the facial reactions and physical interplay of the actors. He is helped by the imaginative set design of Ciaran Bagnall - a hyper-modern campus across which the journals and e-mails of the characters are displayed.
Edwards and Coogan have excellent chemistry and convince both as conflicted lovers and academics. Edwards has strong masculine presence but rather than a jaded roué presents a rare womaniser who actually likes women - being stimulated by Helen’s ideas as much as her physical charms. Coogan shows the desperate need of a woman trying to stimulate emotions that have shut down after terrible loss but she is fully aware of the consequences of her actions.
Thought-provoking, moving and very funny, indeed. We need more plays like David Lodge's Secret Thoughts.