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July 9, 2007 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Dumb Show

I’m not entirely sure if the fragrant aroma of perfume was wafting from the attractive lady on the stage or from the well-dressed woman beside me. Either way, this exotic scent certainly served to enhance the opening night of Circa Theatre’s newest play, Dumb Show. Armed with convincing hotel-style décor and superb performers, Dumb Show is a play which will give your evening out a bit of sophisticated polish – a perfect show for impressing that girl you really dig.

Dumb Show is written by Joe Penhall and analyses the place and function of one’s private/public life. The popular (fictional) celebrity Barry (Stephen Gledhill) has been lured into a hotel room by a suspicious pair (Jessica Robinson and Gavin Rutherford) claiming to be selling financial something-or-other (don’t expect me to understand this sort of thing, I’m an arts student not a freaking economist!). However, it soon emerges that a wicked trap has been laid for Barry, who is forced into revealing some of the more personal details of his life in a malicious, yet very satirical, ploy.

Penhall’s script is witty and at times very surprising, offering many more twists and turns than I expected to see, although at 100 minutes long I did begin to wonder whether or not the final scene was completely necessary. The script lends the play a marvellous energy and flow, which is exploited well by the talented and very professional cast. Each actor took to their role like a baker to an oven, displaying very skilled nuances of accent and speech and embodying their roles with great conviction. Robinson and Rutherford, playing the characters of Liz and Greg respectively, are incredibly entertaining to watch, their faces, bodies and costumes combining well to produce lively and animated characters. Plus, Liz is hot as a mince pie.

The set is realistic and classy. Offset by subtle blue lighting (my favourite kind), the hotel furnishings are realistic in their style and execution, the precision of its layout and its spotless surfaces reflecting the performative quality of both the characters and the actors. Performance is, in fact, one of the key themes of the play itself, visible in the actions of the characters and also the plot, in the way that Barry’s private life is treated as though it were a show for entertainment – ironic, considering that the play itself is literally a performance.

All told, Dumb Show is a piece of theatre that pleases. With a witty script, engaging visuals and well-played characters, Dumb Show should be seen by those who are looking for a night of theatre which will entertain you, and make you think if you want it to. Well recommended.


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