Specially written for the actress Lucy Briers, and first seen as a National Theatre Platform presentation, Samuel Adamsonís Some Kind of Bliss in the smaller of the Trafalgar Studios is a journalistís tale of a walk by the river from London Bridge to Greenwich.
Well, almost to Greenwich. Rachel works for the Daily Mail and sets out from Islington one morning to interview Lulu, the pop singer. She is six hours early, so she gets off the tube at London Bridge and takes the Thames path to Rotherhithe.
She encounters some haunting statues, and some threatening locals. Buoyed along in a state of reverie, she invites the sexual advances of a teenager, smokes a joint, is brutally mugged by a Chinese ice-cream salesman, hi-jacks his van, mows down a Doberman and still arrives on schedule.
As she goes, Rachel is in fact re-living not only the history of writing the piece, but also the history of her relationship with her dull teacher husband, the man she had an affair with at college, her uncle who played in a Ziggy Stardust tribute band in Croydon and a chance encounter with her nephew in tow at a matinee of The Lion King. David Bowie is a key cultural reference throughout.
The performance of Lucy Briers, which is utterly compelling and technically brilliant, is propelled both by what she sees and what she remembers, so that the show acquires a kinetic density and a real sense of biographical odyssey. Adamson and Briers have obviously done their homework. This stretch of the river does have a sort of melancholy Dickensian danger to it, though Iím not sure that Timothy Spall really does lives around Wapping way, as the teenage sex object claims; I think heís much further south.
Toby Frowís smart production, superbly bolstered by Richard Hammartonís sound effects and music, allows Briers to roam effusively through the small acting space while staying emphatically inside her own head. The area is closed off by a long rising platform towards Luluís offstage kitchen (and its aubergine sofa), supported by the wooden stanchions of a breakwater groyne; this is Lucy Osborneís second outstanding design of the week (she is also responsible for the punk rock comedy The dYsFUnCKshOnalZat the Bush).
All of Rachelís private deliberations are meshed into a series of decisions that are jolted into perspective by what happens to her. This is the measure of the scriptís neat cleverness and the acuity of Briersí top notch performance.
- Michael Coveney