In a dingy council flat in London, misanthropic and acne-burdened poet
Steven lives a lonely life. Visits from his scrounging father and
eccentric neighbours represent his only relationships, until the day a
pretty female law student moves in as his lodger.
Paul Birtill’s new version of his 2004 play The Lodger has all
the ingredients to make a very interesting and dark piece about lonely
characters and their need to connect but unfortunately it only touches
on the wealth of opportunities the premise presents: Anyone who has ever
been in a flat share can very much relate to confrontations with
neighbours, bringing back the boyfriend at night, thin walls and no milk
in the fridge.
The main story is a classic triangle conflict: Cameron Harris as the
poet Steven has all the characteristics of the self-loathing man with a
vulnerable side. Amy Brangwyn as the beautiful lodger Clare is a
perfect match as the law studying, open and friendly woman, stuck
between her boisterous boyfriend Basil (Paul Bonner) and her
growing affection for Steven.
Visits from Steven’s father (Michael Halden) help demonstrate
Steven’s isolation while the slightly mad neighbour Jake (Alexander Humes)
adds some comic variety. Isabelle Rose as Clare’s friend is warm and
supportive but unfortunately her role adds little to the story and feels
lost in too many scenes.
Director Conrad Blakemore uses the intimate space efficiently and with
a great amount of detail. But there is a superfluity of scenes and too
many characters that exist only to add an unnecessary element of
exposition; the central love story consequently takes too long to build
and suffers from a lack of momentum.
Scenes outside of the flat tend to be highly over-acted; the doctor’s
scenes (Jimmy O’Rourke) would be more engaging if they did not try so
hard to be funny. Badly choreographed fight scenes and fake playing of
didgeridoos create the air of a poor student production.
But the cast put in a lot of energy to create distinct and unique
characters and there are strong moments, which make us care for the
central couple’s fate. There is potential in evidence here but
the play needs a lot of editing and more juice in the relevant scenes to
make it work.