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August 2, 2010 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Parlour Song


Ned (Gavin Rutherford) and Joy (Heather O’Carroll) have been married 11 years and the spark is gone. Their cheeky chappy neighbour Dale (Christopher Brougham) narrates their tale of cookie-cutter suburbian repression. Things start disappearing from their house. First, it’s small things; cufflinks and the like. It soon escalates with larger and larger objects disappearing. As the house empties, Ned loses his grip on reality and things start to go a bit weird.

Parlour Song has an interesting premise, and for a few of the early scenes, it looks like it’s going to deliver. However, as the tension builds and the twists get turny, Parlour Song bottles out. The questions raised at the beginning are left limp through the overlong middle only to be answered, almost as an afterthought, at the end. However, the third act grinds so crunchily and inelegantly into a totally different tone and style that you are too busy being jarred by the new, unneeded theatrical grammar to care about any of the resolutions.

The cast all give well-shaped performances, especially Brougham, whose knack for comedy shines through. O’Carroll and Rutherford’s evocation of a relationship run cold is also well rendered. Susan Wilson’s direction is clear and clean. She does, however, struggle with the over-length of the script—it runs to 105 minutes and should, at most, be 75—you very quickly feel the length of the work. It should, at least, have an interval.

The set by John Hodgkins and lights by Jennifer Lal work together extremely well to carve a particular sense of place into the tricky space that is Circa Two. The AV projections by Andrew Simpson are a creative triumph in and of themselves, but feel often like a superfluous addition to the work as a whole.

Parlour Song is, at the end of the day, harmless. It is American Beauty writ small. And a bit dull. But it is far from a failure. The assured performances and stellar design simply need a leaner and more focused script to work with. When you leave Parlour Song you do not feel that you have wasted your time, you just haven’t gotten much in exchange for it.

Parlour Song
wri. Jez Butterworth
dir. Susan Wilson
perf. Christopher Brougham, Gavin Rutherford and Heather O’Carroll

At Circa Two ( for booking deets), 24 July – 21 August 2010


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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