I was very excited to have my first experience at Park Theatre, the brainchild of Artistic Director Jez Bond. The converted office block just a 30-second walk from Finsbury Park tube has been transformed into a very appealing space. It has the characteristics of the Royal Court and the Arcola Theatre combined, with its own personality thrown in too! It is clearly a space for curious minds, and I witnessed adults and children alike finding their way to either Little Black Book by Jean-Claude Carrière (translated by Solvène Tiffou), or the panto upstairs in the bigger space that seats two hundred.
Taking my seat, the room before me resembles the world we are about to witness: a well-decorate and modern flat, minimally decorated and inoffensive. My eyes linger on the details that punctuate the simplicity, for example the lizard on the table.
The relationship of a man and woman unfolds. Jenny Rainsford plays mysterious and playful intruder Susan, innocent and perfectly Parisian in her delivery. Gerald Kyd plays opposite her as Jean – a bachelor, handsome and assured in his actions. A strange normality hangs between their exchanges as Jean tries to work out Susan’s motives, at the same time as Susan does her best to distract him and stay as long as she possibly can. Rainsford does a wonderful job of trapping him with her irresistible changes in direction and, of course, the more traditional lingering looks, uninhibited and inevitably seductive. We are drawn into the delightful lightness that exists between strangers: the lack of agenda or responsibility. I felt myself wanting to see more happen between them, but at the same time the suspense is just as titillating!
Susan remains her passive, yet fascinating self as three days progress and we see Jean fall in love with her. Whether this love is genuine or not, I don’t think any of us care – we are happy to be witness to their union. The ‘Little Black Book’ of the title is a focal point, housing the records of Jean’s conquests, complete with pictures and statistics. Susan’s need for information doesn’t seem to be motivated by jealousy, but more by a woman wanting to know the inner workings of a man, if such a concept can be studied! I am left wondering at times whether she is secretly very lost and abandoned. But soon enough, I am once again all ears to the score of fantasy that plays from Susan’s mind, not worrying about anything that may be hidden deeper.
The music of Sophie Cotton underlines the ambiguous nature of love and lust: its momentum and playful quality supports and develops the action authentically. Design and directing team Will Fricker and Kate Fahy have clearly tilted towards a filmic frame for the piece. I very much enjoyed seeing Susan’s gaze to Jean through the roses that are between them, during a romantic moment. The nature of the dialogue and the narrative encourage the audience to imagine it as a film: they linger and ask for close-ups, which the snug space and focused audience provide.
The game that we see before us is one that we can all relate to. At a neat eighty minutes, this play provides an alluring snapshot of the way people behave, if they dare. A whimsical breath of joie de vivre!
Little Black Book is playing at the Park Theatre until 19 January 2014. For more information and tickets, see the Park Theatre website.