Thursday 30 July 2009

Deceptions - Receptions 4

Reviewer: David Henshall
11th June 2009

A Gripping Tale Full Of Deception
Don’t be deceived. The first act of this play lulls you into a false sense of thinking you are not going to like it. The situations are not comfortable and the characters don’t really fill you with confidence at this stage.

The conversations between Julia Smythe and Adrian Wainwright seem contrived. She is the psychoanalyst he has come to consult; he’s impotent, so he says. But, at the end of the day, that’s not what it’s all about.

It’s a story with a great twist in the tail as the pair meet again, and again - not always in her office. He insinuates his way into her life in the most extraordinary fashion and we wonder what he is up to.

On the other hand maybe it’s Julia who has something to prove or hide. The story takes us back and forth and we are never quite sure who is telling the truth. In the end we discover that both are adept at spouting lies, or at least at not telling the complete truth.

I’m not sure that the denouement is quite as successful as it ought to be because, for me, the author signals the answer to the mystery a little too early in the second act. On the other hand it was clear that a lot of people were pleasantly surprised by how things worked out.

The play is a two-hander and quite a tour de force for Michelle Collins who spent 10 years in EastEnders and Rupert Hill from Coronation Street and several other soaps. This is the first night of the tour and both are word perfect in parts that are long, involved and full of tricky changes of mood.

I would have chosen different music. It is loud, unintelligible and detracts from what is otherwise a tale that looks as though it might not make it, but that grips tightly in the end.

Reviewer: Mary Kalmus
30th June 2009

“Everything you say is relevant,” says psychiatrist Julia Smythe (Michelle Collins) as she settles new client Adrian Wainwright (Rupert Hill) into the couch in her sterile-looking office.

It may be relevant, but not everything is as it seems in Paul Wheeler’s tricksy two-hander featuring a patient – with what at first seems merely a case of extreme facetiousness – and his middle-aged analyst.

Playing a professional is never easy, but at first Michelle Collins’ over-eggs it somewhat, adopting a strange, Tannoy-like voice and affecting some strange body language. However, she tones it down to a much more human level by the second half, getting into her swing as the plot revs into action.

Rupert Hill’s patient is a man on a mission, setting out to discredit the psychologist in ways that only a student could dream up – interpreting his obsession with figs as heterosexual desire (oh, how subtle) and cravings for bananas as homosexual lust.

Once you’ve twigged the fact he’s playing a part within a part, you can’t help but admire Hill’s comic timing as he winds up his quarry to fever pitch and calls her profession into question. She, meanwhile, is baffled as to why he should be so intent on bringing her down. As a psychiatrist, she feels she comes across as pretty candid, never promising to cure any of her clients, only to show them how to help themselves to feel better.

The second half is far meatier than the first, taking place in Adrian’s sordid flat and allowing Michelle Collins the chance to move around and show what she is made of. And she pulls it off admirably, changing smoothly from stiff suit to soft and soulful as love creeps up on her unawares.

But it is the final 20 minutes which hold the key to the title, throwing up some true surprises and moving this production from slightly mediocre to memorable.

Reviewer: Rebecca Blunt
23rd July 2009

Former soap actors Michelle Collins and Rupert Hill make deft work of Paul Wheeler’s two-hander, which delves into the theories and effects of therapy.

Collins is psychiatrist Julia Smythe, whose notion of client confidence is turned on its head when the enigmatic Adrian Wainwright (Hill) struts into her consulting room. Played out to a brooding soundtrack and framed by a prison-like set, the pair tussle through a catalogue of truths and lies in a bid for intellectual victory.

Under Joe Harmston’s direction, Deceptions - which contains adult material - confronts, intrigues and entertains. It does ask its audience to suspend a certain amount of disbelief, namely when Julia spits some unlikely language at Adrian, and when she later goes alone to his flat. Fortunately, compelling acting propels us beyond these improbabilities.

Collins stumbles over a couple of early lines but otherwise pinpoints the contradictory assertiveness and vulnerability of a modern woman. Hill is superb, flipping from menacing intensity to jaunty humour in a breath.

Deceptions hinges on a clever twist, and Collins and Hill skilfully keep us guessing as to who is the cat and who is the mouse?

No comments: