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?

Monday, 27 July 2009

Deceptions - Truro

Deceptions is at the Hall For Cornwall in Truro from Monday the 27th July to Saturday the 1st of August.

Performances Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm

Hall for Cornwall,
Back Quay,

Box Office: 01872 262466

Friday, 24 July 2009

Deceptions - Receptions 3

Reviewer: Paul Bowers
26th June 2009

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.

Mental illness is far more common than most people realize and can range from mild depression to full blown paranoid schizophrenia. Most of us have at experienced some form of mental illness such ass depression at one time or another, which is often triggered by traumatic events that we are somehow unable to process.

Deceptions, written by (the) ubiquitous Paul Wheeler, currently showing at the Yvonne Arnaud takes a long hard look at the wok of psychologists and therapists and their effectiveness at bringing people back to a state of mental wellness.

The story is not over-complicated. Long-time psychotherapist Julia Smythe, played by Michelle Collins, is feeling that her life is little staid and that there are few challenges left for her in her profession.

When Adrian Wainwright, played by Rupert Hill, comes to see her, things begin to change. What then transpires and develops through each session is a series of mind games through which psychoanalysis is stripped bare and held under the spot light. A battle of wills emerge which reaches out from the comfort of Julia’s offices into the home of her client.

As the two grow closer together we finally discover that there is a secret connection between the two characters which could be describe (sic) as almost oedipal.

All very interesting, but the play struggles with the challenge of dealing with deep and complicated ideas on psychoanalysis at quite an advanced level, but interlacing them with a storyline which, quite frankly, fails to present them in a cogent and realistic way.

On top of that Michelle Collins still does not appear to be relaxed or at home on the stage. She often seemed to forget her lines and occasionally gabbled unintelligible ones to cover it up. She was also not a particularly convincing psychoanalyst.

Maybe it is simply Michelle’s style of acting, but her persona seems best suited to playing characters like Cindy Beale (her role in EastEnders until 1998) rather than over-paid psychologists like Julia Smythe.

Rupert Hill (Keiron Wallace in The Bill and Jamie Baldwin in Coronation Street) fared better and had a great stage presence which helped keep the play moving.

The set, on the other hand, was a creative masterpiece. It had brick walls on either side of the stage which curved inwards eventually disappearing behind a large vertical cylindrical column. For the first few acts the column was peppered with large white pains (sic) of glass which were shaded and lit from behind to denote the analysts office. Then as the action passed to Adrian’s flat the column revolved revealing a brick wall with a small kitchen area at its base.

Between each scene change music by the Smiths was played while the stage hands moved the set around. The stage hands also managed to join in with the fun with a little bit of acting themselves even with the stage lights down.

Deceptions is a psychological drama. And as befits a play of this genre the first act takes place in a psychiatrists consulting room. A young man has come to find a resolution to his troubles, but is he all he seems to be?

As you would expect, he is not. And the unravelling of who he is, whether the information he proffers is the truth or not and finally what has drawn him to the consulting rooms of this particular psychiatrist is the nub of the story.

Rupert Hill, known for his many TV roles including Kieron Wallace in The Bill, and Jamie Baldwin in Coronation Street plays Adrian Wainwright. He uses his well known cheeky charm to good effect but the dialogue has a curiously old fashioned feel for a modern young man of 23.

And Michelle Collins as psychiatrist Julia Smythe fares no better. Ms Collins has won our hearts both on TV, notably in Eastenders and 2000 Acres of Sky and in her many roles in the theatre, but this is not her role. She does not convince, and particularly in ‘professional mode’ has a curiously staccato style of delivery which is most off putting.

It is only when the action moves to Adrian Wainwright’s bedsitter that the action becomes slightly more believable. In response, I also became slightly more interested in why Adrian wanted to draw Julia Smythe into his world with so many deceptions. Could it be for revenge, for love or was there a more subtle reason for the subterfuge? And there can be no doubt that both Michelle Collins and Rupert Hill felt more comfortable in these scenes.

An interesting set by Simon Scullion with a modern brick warehouse type backdrop and a central lit column only serves to make the old fashioned nature of the dialogue stand out even more. The play was first performed at the Kings Head in London in 1991, but has a fifties feel to it which a few up to date references do little to change. Director Joe Harmston’s skill has certainly added quality to this production. In this case it amounts to doing his best with what he has been given. As this is a two hander, there is not even the interest of a range of characters to offset the creaky nature of this script.

There is undoubtedly a problem with casting two well known actors in roles that only their experience can make in any way believable. Their names will certainly inspire us to book a seat, but what will we think when we’ve spent two underwhelming hours in the theatre?

Apart from some enthusiastic clapping from a group of ‘fans’, the audience reaction was muted; I’ll leave the final words to a lady who on leaving the theatre said, ‘It was alright, but I’ve missed the Wimbledon Highlights’. Quite so!

Reviewer: Sue Madden
22nd July 2009

NOT so much a thriller, more a black comedy, Paul Wheeler's latest play, Deceptions brings together two of the nation's favourite ex-soap stars, Michelle Collins (Eastenders) and Rupert Hill (Coronation Street) in this riveting, psychological two-hander.

From the outset, Deceptions demands your attention, with dialogue flying between jaded psychiatrist, Julia Smythe (Collins) and her latest 'client' Adrian Wainwright (Hill).

What appears to be a simple therapy session, between a young man with a vivid imagination and his psychiatrist, descends into a cross-examination, where roles are reversed and secrets revealed.

The tension increases as doctor and patient struggle to outwit each other, to gain the upper hand.

There are some genuinely funny moments dotted throughout, interspersed with a nice touch of menace, as you question the motives of both characters.

Deceptions has a clever, cerebral plot that can be enjoyed for just what it is - great drama, done very well.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Deceptions - Cardiff

Deceptions arrives at Cardiff's New Theatre from Tuesday the 22nd of July to Saturday the 25th of July.

Evening performances Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Matinee performances Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm

New Theatre,
Park Place,
CF10 3LN

Box Office: 029 2087 8889
New Theatre Cardiff's website

Friday, 17 July 2009

Between The Scenes...

Enter stage left carrying drinking glasses, pause, cross to desk and swap for used drinking glasses, cross to chaise longue, set pillow and exit stage right.

Enter stage left, cross to chaise longue, strike to stage right, cross to desk, strike to stage left and exit.

Enter stage left with bed and set on marks, exit stage right and re-enter with table, exit stage left and re-enter with bedside table, pay out lamp cable, exit stage left.

Enter stage right with pan rack, assist with splashback and set pan rack, strike old kettle and stereo to stage right, re-enter with new kettle, coffee pot and cafetiere and set on kitchen. Strike everything on table to stage right and re-enter with laptop and speakers and set on table. Strike old chairs to stage right and re-enter with new chairs. Exit stage right, re-enter with cupboard door, place on kitchen and exit stage right.

Enter stage right with pans and chopping board, cross to table, set chopping board on table, cross to kitchen, hook pans onto pan rack, cross to table and pick up spectacles, Moby Dick, notes for a novel and laptop, cross to bedside table and set. Pick up blue duvet and strike to stage left, re-enter and cross to bed, collect laptop from Caroline, open and place on bed, re-set chair at table, collect Julia's coat and bag, exit stage right, move to upstage entrance and hand bag to Michelle.

Enter stage right, cross to table, collect chopping board and move to kitchen and set it, return to table, pick up wine glasses and strike to stage right. Re-enter and cross to bed, pick up spectacles, notes for a novel and laptop, cross to bedside table and set. Strike striped duvet to stage left and re-enter with gold duvet and bunch of flowers. Make bed with gold duvet and cross to table, give bunch to flowers to Caroline, offer her right hand and exit stage right holding hands.

Have a sit down.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Deceptions - Norwich

Deceptions is at Norwich's Theatre Royal from Monday the 13th July to Saturday the 18th of July.

Evening performances Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Matinee performances Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm

Theatre Royal,
Theatre Street,

Box Office: 01603 630000
Theatre Royal Norwich's website

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Deceptions - Receptions 2

Reviewer: Sheila Connor
June 2009

Although he is already a very experienced writer with some impressive television and feature films to his credit, this is (Paul) Wheeler's first play for the stage and he has packed a lot into it. Intrigue, drama, comedy, suspense and a love story are intertwined in a manner which keeps the audience involved and fascinated right to the end.

Expecting something on the lines of a psychological thriller, it begins calmly enough. In designer Simon Scullion's set psychiatrist Julia Smythe's consulting room is present-day fashionably minimalist, but gives the impression of a warehouse in need of conversion with its high walls of exposed brickwork including bricked up windows, the only relief being a softly lit atrium, and the only furniture table, chair and couch. Julia is dressed as befits a professional career woman approaching middle age - smart, trendy trouser suit and high heels, and is ready with her questions.

Hardly a cosy intimate atmosphere to encourage divulging inner turmoil, but strangely Adrian Wainwright (Rupert Hill), the young man on the couch, has no problem and seems a happy, cheerfully cheeky soul full of humour, and eager to tell all, while Michelle Collins's Julia, described as "sitting there calm and inscrutable" constantly twitches, gesticulates, seems nervous and ill at ease and more aware of the audience than of her patient - sorry, client - and in need of treatment herself.

As the play progresses and secrets are dragged out into the open that is how it would appear. Not quite so simple though - the main theme is revenge, and the very surprising dénouement supplies that very satisfactorily and not where you would expect.

As the consultation continues, the intrigue increases. Why does Wainwright seem intent on upsetting his interrogator, undermining her authority and eroding her confidence while belittling her profession? At his suggestion they experiment with changing roles and his more pertinent probing produces some strangely panic-stricken reactions. Perhaps it is a psychological thriller after all with suggestions of intrigue and malice. "I am going to kill you" is heard*. There is an attempted suicide, and the thought is planted that Julia is being stalked.

Dialogue (and there is great deal) is slick, witty, funny and, in Joe Harmston's production, very fast-paced, with a cat and mouse game changing sides as each attempts to score over the other, and it is here that Collins comes into her own, moving from anger to acquiescence, remembrance of tragedy, a lost love in her past life and shame at the secret life she is leading now, and expressing each mood well.

In a very confident and sympathetic performance Hill moves easily from perky, assertive young man to one with many problems, spinning story after story to gain sympathy and redemption, and the play concludes with the two protagonists gazing into the future and anticipating the satisfaction of the revenge they will have on the one who has ruined both their lives.

* The line in the script is "I am going to cure you."

30th June 2009
Reviewer: Michael Hootman

The two-handed psychological thriller is practically a mini genre. Expect reviews to call it a 'game of cat and mouse', mention 'the shifting balance of power' and perhaps promise that it builds to 'an amazing twist'. The problem with these plays is that you can't really discuss much of the plot without breaking an unwritten rule of reviewing. Which is a shame as it's hard to get across just how absurd the play is - its inconsistencies and the two characters' lunatic motivations - without a frank and open discussion of the plot. The denouement just about squeaks by - although it's not particularly interesting - but then there's another makeshift 'twist' tacked on at the very end whose weakness is just slightly embarrassing.

Julia Smythe (Michelle Collins) is a psychiatrist whose latest client Adrian Wainwright (Rupert Hill) presents an almost textbook case of easily defined neuroses. It's so textbook that within ten minutes he has found the root cause of his impotence and tries to make a break for it. But Smythe quickly gives another possible cause of his problem and persuades him to carry on the session. But did she do this out of concern for her patient? Or did the thought of a cured client simply make her worry about lost revenue? To give the play its due the two of them certainly carry out the argument about how shrinks just get paid for sitting and listening, that they try and unearth ever deeper problems to make their punters keep coming back, that they prey on those rich and vain enough to pay their fees. But it's not great theatre and the dialogue rarely reaches the level of an internet chat forum on the same topic.

At the end of the first scene something is revealed which alters our understanding of exactly why Wainwright has gone to see a shrink. Then in scene two it goes a little crazy with Smythe acting in an insanely unprofessional manner just because of being ever so slightly riled by Wainwright. She takes her revenge on him by trying to convince him that he's mad - which would be fine if the play presented her as completely barking instead of just a bit bored of her job.

Although Collins' performance is not terrible she hardly gives the character any life - she appears to resemble a cipher who has to jump through a number of plot hoops. Though it's possible that could well be a reflection on the writing as much as her acting ability. Hill is perfectly acceptable in the role of the Wainwright - and again he's not working with much - but at a night at the theatre 'perfectly acceptable' isn't really a good enough reason for buying a ticket.

Deceptions' saving grace is that despite everything it isn't boring. If only it had been a little less - or a great deal more - ridiculous it might even have made quite a good play.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Deceptions - Richmond

Deceptions arrives at Richmond Theatre from Monday the 6th July to Saturday the 11th of July.

Evening performances Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm
Matinee performances Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm

Richmond Theatre,
The Green,

Box Office: 0870 060 6651

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Night I Missed Blur

So Blur reformed and I had a ticket to see them in London's Hyde Park tonight, but once again I'm scene shifting, this time for the theatre-going public of Brighton.

Can they remain together long enough for me to see them?

Do the theatre-going public of Brighton care?