4/5
29 JanuaryIf you like your theatre witty, pithy and sexy, Guy Levin’s production of Closer is well worth seeing.

Desire is the driving force in a play which sees a quartet of 1990s Londoners caught in a claustrophobic web of lust and deceit. Staging is minimal: Closer’s real focus is on self-consciously clever dialogue and the simmering sexual tensions it reveals. This is not a play concerned with weighty philosophy. We are made aware of the links between death and desire, but these are not satisfactorily explored. A meta-theatrical debate concerning art as exploitation is touched on, then disregarded. Closer does not treat any concept (apart from that of sex) more than superficially, abandoning profundity for clever wordplay and vivid volleys of banter. This is sometimes very effective, and the actors really bring out the humour of Closer’s best lines. Occasionally, though, one can be left unsatisfied. Verbal and emotional parallels are constantly drawn between the characters in a way that can feel heavy-handed. Some aspects of the play now seem dated. The scenes based on an internet sex chatroom in particular have lost much of their shock effect.

Yet whatever the deficiencies of the script, the acting is consistently superb. Lindsay Dukes captures the simultaneously vulnerable and sexually provocative nature of stripper Alice, and Harry Creelman and Alex Bowles give understated and convincing portrayals of photographer Anne and obituary-writer Dan respectively. Whilst Matt Maltby as Larry initially engaged better with the comic scenes, his progression towards unsettling anger was ultimately extremely powerful.

Closer really benefits from the pared-down treatment it receives in this production. Both the comic and serious scenes are handled well by a talented cast, and the sharp wit of the dialogue is counterpoised with convincing outbursts of passion.by Elisabeth Lewis-Barned