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Kiss Chase (tour - Westcliff, Palace Theatre)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Think twice before going off to one of those school reunion get-togethers at your old school. Especially when one of your former mates might have a hidden agenda. Friends are very far from being reunited in Philip Gladwin’s Kiss Chase, a psychological thriller which locks three men and one woman into a disused gymnasium while disco sounds from outside muffle the conflicted personalities within. Hell indeed can be other people.

Patric Kearns’ direction has the advantage of a fine set by Claire Booth and committed performances from the four actors. John is the first character we meet, frantically trying for a mobile signal in order to prevent his car being re-possessed. Then in comes smart married Debbie, who is followed by her boyfriend from her teenage years Mike, and then finally brash Pete, the playground bully who has seen no reason to discard his roughness.

But the natural boasting about perfect marriages, well-adjusted children, lucrative and fulfilling careers begins to turn sour, A box of old school photographs discovered almost by chance (or is it?) starts the mischief. A girl from the same school who they all knew died in a house-fire over a decade ago; a sad occurrence indeed, but one that’s surely nothing to do with former classmates in 2012? Of course it is; her unravelling story parallels the slow evisceration of the sometimes just wretched, often more sordid realities of the existence of the four still alive.

Jenny Funnell is Debbie, whose sartorial elegance disguises both mental and physical bruises. You can see why Stephen Beckett’s Mike has did well with the girls in his teens and twenties; the charm is still there in his thirties, but it’s begun to fray. Badly. You certainly wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Pete as Ben Roddy plays him, and might be wise to be oh-so-slightly wary of the increasingly desperate loser who is Marcus Hutton’s John.

The main trouble with this play for me lies not in the writing, the characterisations or even the staging. It just seemed to be in the wrong theatre. Claustrophobic drama needs the audience to be on top of the action, not divided from it by the fourth-wall of a proscenium arch. talking Scarlet, the Chesterfield-based production company which has mounted Kiss Chase is to be congratulated on its willingness to tour what is a challenging play. But it needs to think seriously about the size and type of the venues it has booked.


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