Oh simplicity how I adore thee. Even before the cast of Patrick Marber’s Closer arrive on stage, I am slapped in the face with the excitable foresight of what is to come. The set is effortless; an unmade bed occupies the centre and the general feel is one of clinical aloofness. As the production progresses, minimalism is a concrete staple and the cast move various props around, save for Finn Ross’s projection which houses an online conversation between Dan and Larry, an aquarium and a startlingly effective photograph of Alice which serves as a representation of our destructive desire to be a fly-on-the-wall. Bunny Christie has done some extraordinary work in the past and here it’s the ‘lacking’ that has the most impact. The cast’s involvement with their surroundings serves to intensify intimacy – both towards each other and the audience and whilst yes, the aesthetics are indeed aloof and cold, we can’t help but remain fascinated. Hugh Vanstone’s lighting makes the experience slightly uncomfortable – as though you’re at home with the big light left on instead of the cosy glow of the lamp. If the characters are not allowed to get comfortable then we sure as hell aren’t.
Premiering at London’s National Theatre in 1997, Marber’s third play was a huge success and became a film in 2004, starring Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Clive Owen. The film has a theatrical flair; a mocking approach from the characters that often requires huge declarations. I adore the film and the style adopted by director Mike Nichols is fiercely different and strangely, it works but ironically this almost mechanical, theatrical approach to the script doesn’t seem quite so evident here, in another stage adaptation. There’s much melodrama and the script is full of cliches but the cast’s use of it feels far closer to a world the audience is more used to in their everyday lives.
Like an ex-lover who’s just walked back into your life after what seems too long, the audience hangs on every single moment of David Leveaux’s production, laughing in all the right places and fondly reminiscing on shared nostalgia. Levaux’s direction sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. From my position stage left, I often felt frustration at having my view of one actor blocked by another and usually at highly emotional moments. After discovering the audience on the other two sides had no such issue, I felt disappointment on what could have been easily avoidable.
Nancy Carroll’s Anna is extraordinary, from her lazy and beautiful ambiguity towards first meeting with Rufus Sewell’s Larry to screaming defeat at the end of their marriage. Rachel Redford’s Alice is a petite ticking bomb and her scene with Sewell in the strip club again suffered from mis-directing and felt constrained but as a key scene is conveyed effectively. Like Carroll, Redford’s remarkable performance could be done solely through her face. Sewell’s initial arrogance is cleverly consistent and subtle and his turmoil in the club scene is powerful. Oliver Chris’s Dan maintains his earlier awe-stricken charm whilst playing at the naughty little boy. The online chat is a particular highlight.
There’s a wonderful maturity about the sex that is portrayed here and whilst Closer is ultimately just a tad tragic, there’s an oddly warm comfort and as we embrace the couples, it feels as though they’re embracing us back. Despite some issues with the direction, I completely fell in love with Leveaux’s merging of scenes as the two couples declare their infidelity. This revival has been a long time coming and on the whole, doesn’t disappoint. Now I want a wig exactly like Alice’s please.
Closer is playing at the Donmar Warehouse until 4 April. For more information and tickets, see the Donmar Warehouse website.