First of all, the Emmerson Studio, where it was hosted was absolutely the perfect setting for this type of show. There was a cast of just three, minimal set, and an audience capacity of no more than probably 50, so it really was an intimate setting. This allowed us as the audience to feel part of the conversation between the three bickering friends, particularly when the characters occasionally broke the fourth wall. And uninhibited by having to project over a much larger space, the three actors treated us to a proper lesson in naturalistic acting.
All three performances were extremely accomplished, and they had to be in order to sustain a show that wasn't visually engaging in any way. I'd imagine this was a conscious choice of the Director, given that the focal point of the play was a white painting on a white canvas.
Julie Benfield as Marcie was the character that I most identified with, apparently aghast that her friend Sasha had spent £200,000 on something that she deemed to be 'shit'. She also struggles to come to terms with the fact that Sasha appears to genuinely love the painting.
Now I could have spent ages waxing lyrical about the excellent performances from the actors, but I haven’t as I'm sure they'll have been inundated with praise, and rightly so. However, when it came to Julie's performance, what I particularly enjoyed was her mastery of the knowing glance at the audience. Christine Lloyd appeared as the slightly aspirational art collector, Sasha. It was really the second half where her character got a bit more interesting
and feisty, so it was to Christine's credit that she kept the audience engaged in what was quite a gentle start. And finally, John Davis as Ivan was really just there as a foil to the other two characters. Whereas Sasha and Marcie's humorous lines were of a more cynical, sardonic nature, Ivan was there as a sort of punchbag to play for some of the more obvious laughs. However, John did bring a more physical presence to the proceedings, simply with the way he moved around the space and this added a much-needed different dynamic. A special mention must also go to John for his faultless delivery of the mammoth monologue that Ivan launches into at the beginning of Act II.
However, all three actors looked like they were in their absolute element in this show, and they and the Director should be extremely proud. I also hope this is the first of many of this type of show at The Maddermarket's studio because it was a real treat.