Right Now (Traverse: 19 April – 7 May ’16)

Photos: Helen Murray

Photos: Helen Murray

“Funny and clever, disturbing and salacious”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

A Traverse Theatre Company, Theatre Royal Bath Ustinov Studio and Bush Theatre co-production.

Ben is a junior doctor. He and Alice have been together for seven years and their work/life balance is screwed. As it happens, so far so familiar. Right now they’ve been in their new flat for six months, have just got the baby’s room to do, and things will get better. Only they don’t. Instead neighbours Juliette and Gilles and their son François come right on in from across the hall ….. Meet the Fockers from Quebec, everyone: with a ‘u’, inappropriate, out of order and way, way, out of bounds.

You watch your step in this pressing and uncomfortable comedy. You’re never too sure what’s underfoot or where it’s going. There’s a godawful squeaky toy behind the sofa and half a glass of red on the floor. ‘Beware’ should travel around the set like LED advertising at a sports ground. Beware Juliette with her penchant for flashing her knickers; beware Gilles’ prurient touch and tongue; beware François’s lacerating commentary. “They’re a bit odd” is Alice’s bang on estimate. “I like them” is Ben’s disastrous opinion. It’s funny and clever, disturbing and salacious, and very well performed.

Michael Boyd directs this production, which is a cracking compliment to French-Canadian writer Catherine-Anne Toupin. It looks clean, like a Farrow and Ball paint job by designer Madeleine Girling where the quality of the finish should never be in question. All the more effective, then, when a kind of moral distemper takes hold and it all gets corrupted, goes off-colour and becomes dubious. Guy Williams as Gilles is absolutely loathsome because his seduction of Alice is like a pet research project. He also, incidentally, proves that a black roll neck jumper and brown jacket are about as louche as it gets. Maureen Beattie, ever the mistress of the bewitching voice, is Juliette the mother temptress, against whom all resistance is futile. Just sticking a plaster on Dr. Ben’s hand makes him go weak at the knees. François – jittery and wacky by Dyfan Dwfor – may be appalled by his parents’ behaviour but is just as complicit.

Lindsey Campbell as Alice

Lindsey Campbell as Alice

If Toupin isolates a character, it’s Alice. The plot would push her under but she won’t go. Listen up in scene 5 for the psycho pairing of Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) and ‘Benny’ (that would be Biggerstaff too) but Alice stays there, screaming for help really. Lindsey Campbell has to do grieving and dirty dancing and horribly vulnerable all at once, which is why the sex is so desperate. It’s a class act and I think is what the show’s flier describes as traumatic, ‘teasing and thrilling’.

Right Now is as billed. It’s edgy, imminent, and contemporary, which makes it kind of Shakespearean: François as Feste maybe, Alice as the abused and distraught Ophelia; Juliette becomes Lady Macbeth, who has given suck, etc. Weird.

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 19 April)

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