Thursday, February 4, 2016

Where There's a Will - Review - Royalty Theatre

Where There's a Will
Royalty Theatre
27th Jan 2016

Philip - Liam Jack Foster
Kathy - Sinead Lindley
Jack - Lee Stewart
Sally - Olivia Bowern
Solicitor - Amy Herdman-Burns
Dave - Steve White

Where There's a Will written and directed by local writer Lee Stewart, was performed in the Studio at the Royalty Theatre. I always look forward to studio performances at any theatre, as the smaller venues invariably produce a more intimate experience for the audience and actors alike. At the Royalty last week this was even more true because there was no staging, and the audience were seated around three sides of the studio on the same level as the actors so it gave the feel of actually being in the solicitor's office and the hotel room with them.

The premise of the play is simple - three brothers and two of their wives are brought together for the reading of their uncle's will and, naturally, the will reading is not straight forward. The uncle has attached conditions. The brothers have not seen each other for some time, and parted on bad terms. The youngest, Philip, has born the brunt of caring for the uncle in his last days. There is a lot of bitterness, most particularly from Philip's wife Kathy, and the conditions of the will place greater pressure on already taut relationships.

As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that a happy outcome is unlikely and a tense situation is destined to explode. It quickly becomes clear that the group was never going to survive intact - someone was bound to end up dead - and in fact more than one of the characters comes to a sticky end. The question for the audience is - who will die, and who will do the killing? In this, Lee Stewart kept the audience guessing right to the end.

The play has all the ingredients of a tense thriller, a dysfunctional group thrown together and forced to deal with their issues, with the lure of a substantial financial gain, and a surprising twist at the end. It almost worked, it was full of tension but for me it didn't quite hit the mark. I felt as if  Lee Stewart had tried too hard - he threw everything into the pot but the ingredients didn't quite bind together. I wasn't sure if this was trying to be a dark comedy or a tense "courtroom" thriller.

That said, the acting performances were good - Sinead Lindley portraying the poisonous wife/sister-in-law Kathy, with venomous enunciation and withering facial expressions. Philip, played by Liam Jack Foster was the archetypal hen-pecked husband, showing flashes of  fire that were quickly doused by his wife and older brother. Lee Stewart swaggered and preened as the boastful "something in the city" brother Jack. And as for Steve White's portrayal of the lecherous (and somewhat insecure) Dave - ladies, if you spot a guy in a rhinestone shirt and a Stetson out on the town any night, be sure to give him a wide berth!

To sum up - some interesting, if not very likeable characters, a slightly disjointed feel, but a shedload of tension and a surprising twist. It has the potential to be a really good suspense thriller or a very black comedy.

"Where there's a Will" was shortlisted for the BBC Writersroom Script Room 8 Stage Play competition.

Denise Sparrowhawk

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