Di (Kate Maravan) confronts her husband David (Jonathan McGuinness) with their teenaged son Jack’s bloody shirt. From this point a series of events unravel before them, making them question everyone from Jack to his friends and eventually themselves. What can a parent do when they realise that the apple of their eye – who they believe is set out for a great future – has hidden a horrible and dark secret from them?
The writer, James Fritz, offers a fair commentary on the age of technology and the risks that come with being glued to our smartphones. David and Di are quickly forced to learn that nothing is private once it has been released to the internet.
In fact, there seem to be some other social commentaries lurking behind the action of the play. David and Di come to realise how sex and privacy have evolved since they were young. Each parent has their own take on their son’s dark actions, with his father taking a too liberal approach of “if he has, so what?”, which rightly received a negative response from the audience.
Cara (Ria Zmitrowicz), Jake’s ex- girlfriend, perhaps offers the most significant lesson in this play. She is a working class girl from Croydon and she knows that for this reason alone, justice is not on her side. It’s quite tragic and infuriating that she is willing to accept this, but it is a real eye-opener to audiences about how we choose to read a situation according to whether it fits the stereotype.
The play’s subject is incredibly dark but Fritz’ skilful writing manages to find some comic relief without trivialising the plot. The dynamics take many drastic changes that make the writing a bit questionable. Either Fritz is trying to highlight the complexity of the situation or he is simply trying to fit too much content into his 90-minute play.
Similarly the ending seems a bit weak as the audience don’t actually know what happens. Are the parents still together? Has their relationship with their son changed? Do they even still have one? Perhaps the idea is to let the audience come to their own conclusion, but if this is the case it isn’t particularly clear.
The stage is mostly dominated by Maravan and McGuinness and we never meet Jack or hear his side of events – maybe because it is irrelevant once all the pieces come together. Maravan is phenomenal. She is the lioness mother, protecting her baby, but shows surprising qualities as events unravel. She delivers most of the play’s funniest lines with the utmost taste but without losing the audience. McGuinness is fantastic alongside her, although his character is more questionable.
Overall this is an incredibly thought-provoking and eye-opening play. It does however leave many more questions than it answers. It is definitely worth seeing for a fair albeit uncomfortable insight into modern society’s greater flaws.
Four Minutes Twelve Seconds is playing at Trafalgar Studios until 30 November. For more information and tickets, see the ATG tickets website. Photo: Ikin Yum.