An odd but sharply written comedy that doesn’t quite deliver a knock-out punch, Alexis Zegerman’s Lucky Seven is inspired by the Granada Television documentary series that catches up with a random bunch of people once every seven years. Michael Apted’s ongoing programme is charting the lives of fourteen volunteer subjects, whereas Zegerman, for purposes of dramatic concentration as much as budget economies, focuses on the stories of just three social guinea pigs.
Although the television series insists there is no coercion involved, Zegerman’s characters – posh, spoilt and punkish Catherine (Susannah Harker), Jewish working class Alan (David Kennedy) and academically inclined middle-class Tom (Jonny Weir) – seem trapped in their destinies, waiting for the unseen director who is some kind of blameworthy villain.
We start at the age of forty-nine and jump back and forth to the other key stages of forty-two and twenty-one – the majority of the scenes – before diving into the teens and, not till the very end, the sight of three seven year-olds coyly and innocently facing the camera on a long white sofa. Alan, we learn, has a company of four hundred people making knickers. Tom read English at Cambridge and is an archivist hoping for a break in Hollywood with his life as a movie starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster.
Tom wants to be remembered for something other than this programme. The other two seem more damaged by the real world. Catherine is overtaken by the death of her son in a drink/driving accident, while Alan reveals that he’s had eye surgery and that his wife has run off with an accountant. The play veers towards a Euripidean climax with a sudden outbreak of sex on the sofa and the news that...well, we never do meet that director.
Zegerman, who played Sally Hawkins’s best friend in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, is a good actress who can certainly write, and this full-length debut directed by Anthony Clark is full of promise. Designer Liz Ascroft has stripped the stage right back, providing an echoing, quasi-epic atmosphere with banks of lights, a step-ladder, two television monitors. Only in the second act, though, are the visual overlaps of film testimony and interactive comedy explored as we see the potential poignancy of this exercise in living history in an age of instant celebrity.