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Pieces of Vincent

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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There’s a wrong-footing randomness to the duologues that make up David Watson's play. A gentle piano teacher (Robin Soans) is besotted by his pupil (Joseph Rowe). Londoners Rachel and Vincent (Sian Clifford and Adam Best) are tangled in an on-off relationship. Across the Irish Sea a lonely old lady (Dearbhla Molloy) receives devastating news from Kevin McMonagle's sensitive policeman. Little links these characters, it seems, until one explosive moment shatters all their lives.

Twenty-something Watson’s star has been on the rise since Flight Path, and his talent for giving a voice to his own generation meant it was only a matter of time before the enterprising Arcola offered him this platform. His style is certainly confident: idiomatic, oblique and a touch too wordy.

A pity, then, that director Clare Lizzimore and designer Es Devlin have given Pieces of Vincent this multimedia mess of a production. Watson’s straightforward drama has been sacrificed on the altar of gimmickry. It unfolds on all four sides of the audience, enacted behind alienating gauze screens onto which haphazard video interludes are periodically projected. We squat on sciatica-inducing cushions and strain to follow Watson’s fragmented tale amid an onslaught of hi-tech distractions. Thank goodness there’s a playtext programme: just the thing for a quiet hour with an easy chair and a soft-beam lamp.

- Mark Valencia


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