Jack Clover is the talk of the town and upon the evidence of his latest play, Colin and Katya, rightly so.
Staged among the wonderful dark wood of the North Wall Arts Centre, Grace Linden’s hanging, minimalist set took on an ominous feel under the influence of Chris Burr’s accomplished lighting design.
The love story that develops between Colin and Katya touches on east/west relations and the internet, but explores both these themes in extremely innovative and nuanced ways.
Interspersing the love story are interviews conducted by a pair of narrators, where western men and Eastern European women are interviewed as to why they choose to date online, or to participate in events where western men are driven on a speed-dating tour of Donetsk in Ukraine. The structure of these interviews worked especially well in those moments where there was ambiguity as to the role of the interviewers; whether they were in or out the action.
In such moments Clover’s brilliance really shone, as he managed to capture the feeling of everyday life in relation to everyday life online in the balance between internal self consciousness and public projection, and between integrality and centrality (the internet is there but it is not the focus).
The physical theatre was constantly fantastic, including along with madcap, hilarious group scenes that were original and heartwarming. However, the first twenty minutes or so of the play, though very engaging, was slight over-reliant on physical theatre, the live band and jokes that did not do enough for characterisation.
The play might also have benefited from being about ten minutes shorter. The last ten minutes were of a similarly brilliant standard as the rest of the play, but one felt oneself itching to be left with the questions that the play had posed so marvelously.
The acting, under Clover’s directorship, was extremely good. Tom Curzon was especially notable in one scene that Curzon spent alone on stage with no speech in a sad rage, which was done as a magnificent, understated set-piece.
Daisy Hayes brought Katya to life with style, perfecting the directness of the character and balancing it with a deep sympathy, holding the crowd in a single hand. The supporting cast must also get a big mention, with stellar performances virtually all round bringing to life characters that were absolutely hilarious, but done with a tenderness that did justice to Clover’s wonderful script.
All in all, Colin and Katya was a spectacular production, one the Oxford drama scene can really be proud of. One feels that with talent such as this emerging, British drama as a whole looks to be given a clean bill of health for many more years to come.