Inexplicably attracting some favourable coverage at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, David Cregan's new play Whispers Along the Patio offers little satisfaction, either in terms of sheer entertainment value or as the thought-provoking piece you clearly feel he intends this to be.
Matthew is an elderly man living in comfortable retirement in Richmond, wondering if the stormier aspects of life and passion have passed him by forever. His wife has left him years earlier for a Hungarian, his interfering niece works in the local charity shop and his life is devoid of stimulation; his most exciting outlet being the rosebush on his patio.
Then one day he takes a walk in Kew Gardens, meets both a businessman and a young Macedonian girl and the cosy but empty tenor of his life changes dramatically. After this initial meeting, the characters play out what amounts to a interpersonal version of musical chairs, culminating in a disastrous dinner at Matthew's house where no-one emerges in a particularly good light.
Whispers deals with the fallout when individual desires and wider social concerns come into dramatic collision. Most of the characters in this play are concerned only with their own pressing desires, ignoring the wider implications of their actions and the need for collective responsibility.
Faintly reminiscent of Arthur Miller's All My Sons which follows a similar trajectory but does so in infinitely superior style, the strongest emotions this motley bunch evoke is an overpowering irritation as they wallow in their own misery and frustration, cocooned in their insularity.
Whether this is simply due to implausible writing, poor direction (by Sam Walters) or weak performances is difficult to discern, but the overall effect remains the same. It's frustrating to see a potentially interesting idea wasted in this way. For something advertised as a comedy, it has precious few real laughs and even less impact.
- Amanda Hodges