Thursday, 22 August 2019

REVIEW: The Weatherman at the Park Theatre

The Weatherman is the debut play by Eugene O'Hare and the Park 200 presents this dark depressing insight into an unpleasant seedy subculture of Britain without holding back. The dilapidated, barely habitable one bed flat in a block of flats in London is the current "home" of Archie and Beezer.

Archie played with a controlled intensity by Alec Newman is the more dominant male but harbours dark secrets that spill out in a long soliloquy in Act 2. It is a painful admission of mental health problems and failed relationships that goes some way to explain his anger and his behaviour. 

Beezer, The Weatherman, played by Mark Hadfield, is his drunk companion who he shares a bed with for convenience but not sexual gratification. They are two lost souls drifting through life without purpose or meaning. 

At times there is a Pinteresque feel to the relationship between Beezer and Archie although the humour is more muted and the pauses shorter but it is reminiscent of Aston and Davies in a modern day Caretaker.

Into this uneasy equilibrium is dropped, Mara, a twelve year old Rumanian girl imported into Britain by Dollar, their landlord, for her "protection" from the glue sniffing streets of her home country.

Dollar (David Schaal) is slickly dressed in a smart coat and suit and shiny brown shoes but he exudes a threatening authority that is hard for the weaker men to resist. Even though he has a driver/fixer, Turkey played by Cyril Nri, he is not afraid to do his own enforcing either violently or through unpleasant manipulation of their emotions.

It's hard to have any sympathy for any of the four male low life's who are exploiting or compliant in the exploitation of Mara. It feels just as bad to turn a blind eye as to organise the crimes. Our sympathy is focused on the young Mara , a professional debut from Niamh James, who is largely mute, speaking no English, but reacting to the behaviours of the men. The problem this creates is that are too many long speeches directed at her during which the play drifts and our concentration waivers.

This is a very worthy play highlighting the terrible plight of the estimated 136,000 slaves in the U.K. today and the 7000 trafficked victims, many minors or victims of sexual exploitation. In some ways Beezer and Archie are victims too but it's Mara that the play pleads for us to care about and save without offering us any hope or solutions.

The end result is unsatisfactory despite the excellent performers from all five actors . It felt like a ninety minute TV Play for Today rather than a two hour theatrical play but it is a topic that deserves exposure so that we can all spot the signs of this abuse and expose the complicity that hides it.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Rear Balcony | Price of ticket: £18.50

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