Review – Beyond Therapy

November 6, 2013 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩   Flawed but endearing

Bedlam Theatre  Tue 5 – Sat 9 November 2013

Sweet but somewhat inconsistent, Edinburgh University Theatre Company’s production of Beyond Therapy is at the Bedlam all week.

Will Hearle and Abby Jackson in Beyond Therapy. Photo © www.aliceboreasphotography.com

Will Hearle and Abby Jackson in Beyond Therapy. Photo © www.aliceboreasphotography.com

Messed-up Manhattanite Bruce is advised by his therapist to embrace new experiences by placing a lonely hearts ad in the paper. The woman who responds is Prudence, an uptight thirty-something with very traditional values.

Unfortunately for Prudence, Bruce is bisexual, prone to tears and already living with his boyfriend, Bob. Despite these drawbacks, Bruce and Prudence embark on an absurdly misguided relationship, lurching from one farcical situation to the next.

Christopher Durang’s script is packed with sharp dialogue, but it is a little dated. First performed in 1981, the play’s depictions of sexuality and mental health haven’t aged well. When this production, directed by Jonathan Oldfield, hits its stride, it bounces along with enough charm to carry off the more troublesome stereotypes. When the absurd, cartoonish energy flags, the lack of depth and nuance in the characters becomes apparent.

Will Hearle and Caroline Elms carry the show as Bruce and Prudence. They are both charming performers, and Elms in particular deserves praise for her timing and for successfully tackling the most difficult kind of role – that of the straight man (in the comedic rather than hetero sense).

Suitably incompetent and unstable

Henry Conklin steals the show as Bob, the melodramatic live-in lover of Bruce. His physicality and delivery are precise, his presence is impressive and his characterisation never falters. It is a pity that he is not better costumed, since both the writing and the performance seen to call for something more fabulous than a navy blue dressing gown.

The two eccentric therapists who treat – or at least attempt to treat – Bob and Prudence are played by Martin Maclennan and Abby Jackson. Both launch themselves into their roles with gusto and, despite occasional dips in their energy, they are suitably incompetent and unstable.

There’s rather a lot of shuffling the set around, which slows the pace between scenes. Covering scene changes with a live band is a nice touch, but having them perform more up-tempo music might have helped to keep things moving. It would also have been nice to see the music integrated into the scenes themselves – this is done very effectively right at the end of the play, but it is missing elsewhere.

Despite its flaws, this is a cute, funny show and makes for an entertaining evening, mostly thanks to the enthusiastic young cast.

Running time 1 hour 40 minutes
Bedlam Theatre, 11b Bristo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 1EZ
Tue 5 – Sat 9 November 2013.
Daily 7.30pm.
Tickets and details on the Bedlam website: www.bedlamtheatre.co.uk

ENDS

 

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