Philobiblon: Fine play based on obvious ideas

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fine play based on obvious ideas

There are some interesting characters in 15 Minutes, which has just opened at the Arcola Theatre. Maggie (Moira Brooker) is a veteran television documentary-maker battling to come to terms with the "reality TV" age. Her married (to someone else) boyfriend Robin (Tim Block), is a cynical old Fleet Street hack - a type I recognise all too well. Maggie's "subject" is Toni (Carly Hillman), a rebellious youngster who after a stretch in Holloway is trying, sort of, to get her life into line, not helped by her angry young man Mason (Ashley Rolfe).

These are familiar - perhaps too familiar - characters, but a combination of solid writing and excellent acting take them beyond the stereotypes. The problem with the play is clear, however, in its title. 15 Minutes refers - the programme explains - to the Andy Warhol quote about fame, something that has gone beyond cliche to the point of joke. The story here is of the exploitative and partial nature of "reality" TV. Yes? And it is about how subjects can sometimes turn the tables and become (for their "managers") all too active agents. Yes?

These ideas are simply too familiar, too obvious, to make an entirely satisfying evening. The writer, Christine Harmar-Brown, has a real ear for dialogue and an eye for dramatic movement, but she needs to find some bigger themes, bigger ideas, to explore.

That doesn't mean you won't have an entertaining evening at the Arcola. The acting is top class, and director Paul Jepson does interesting things with giant television screens that shift uncertainly around the stage. But don't expect to spend a delicious after-show dinner at the many excellent restaurants around the Arcola fervently arguing the issues it raises. You'll have said and heard it all before.

Links: The Arcola, with online booking. The production continues until May 13.


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