Closer at the Lyric Theatre
Note: The following review of Closer is from the play's run at the Royal National Theatre. The current cast at the Lyric features Kate Ashfield, Imogen Stubbs, Lloyd Owen and Tom Mannion.
In every long-term relationship, the tables turn over time - he loves more this year, she more the next. Maintaining some degree of balance, steering through the waxing and waning of interest is par for the course. In Patrick Marber s Closer, however, the relationship tables flip with such frequency as to give the sturdiest lover motion sickness. No one seems interested in sticking to the course at all.
Amongst the quadrangle of stars, we have every heterosexual combination of couplings available and quadruple doses of heartache. Alice (Liza Walker) loves Dan (Mark Strong), Dan loves Alice but then decides he loves Anna (Sally Dexter) who loves Larry (Neil Dudgeon) but falls for Dan and spurns Larry who turns to Alice and... well, you get the idea.
At first glance, the inclination is to blame the feckless men. Certainly, the female characters do. “They (men) love the way we make them feel but not us,” rues Anna. Serial woo-er Dan appears most guilty of this. He thrills to the chase, knows all the right words but his actions are fairly empty. According to who you believe, he's either perpetually bored or disappointed by love. Either way, he seems destined to avoid it.
But he's not alone. It soon becomes obvious the men are not the only self-centred creatures. Both women are more than prepared to inflict pain when their own chance of happiness is at risk. The consequent merry-go-round is a sad statement on modern relationships. Nothing, least of all marriage, is forever.
All four players deliver highly-charged performances - Walker, who makes her stage debut, is especially effective as the stripper who's got more than her broken heart to hide. Unfortunately, all are so adept at playing both victim and perpetrator, as the script requires, that by the end, we feel little sympathy for any of them.
Amidst raw heartbreak and remorse, Closer is peppered with some effective black humour - which, unsurprisingly, takes firmest root in the frank discussions of sex. It also features what must be one of the first major stage scenes of an Internet chat - a stark warning for parents worried about online porn.
Vicki Mortimer s dark, memorial-plaque-backed set extends the melancholy mood. And every minor detail seems to speak volumes. During the frequent scene changes of the second act, for instance, the discarded props gather back of stage like the excess baggage each character carries with them into their new romantic ventures.
Everything in this production pays heed to Larry's credo that “Love will kill us.” Played by these rules, it certainly will.
Terri Paddock, November 1997