There’s something particularly funny about putting a successful yet grouchy old realist in a room with an optimistic, naive try-hard. Besides the fun digs at the younger generation enjoyed by the middle-class old wigs, Switzerland‘s fast-paced dialogue is intricate and generates lots of laughs. However, there are times I am all too easily distracted by the gentleman next to me’s watch – which tells me it’s either ticking unnaturally loudly, or that Switzerland has a few dull moments. I don’t blame them – keeping an audience engaged for 95 minutes without the help of an interval, or the development of plot via the introduction of a new character, is no easy feat!
Nevertheless, Phyllis Logan (playing Patricia Highman) and Calum Finlay (who plays Edward) do a stunning job of telling the story, and immerse us in a world of treachery, mystery and an odd sort of charm. They create moments of great tension and often have the intimate audience chuckling out loud. Finlay’s ability to transform himself from the innocent, nervous boy who arrives at Highman’s desolate house in Switzerland is incredible, as by the end he has the authority of a successful writer. Similarly, Logan’s portrayal of Highman’s loss of control is highly believable and greatly executed.
William Dudley’s set is confusing. It attempts to be intricately detailed, using ornaments and decor reflecting Highsmith’s spontaneous character; yet the entire world of the play is undermined by crude, slapstick-style images of the Alps displayed in the windows of the house. Unless they’re a joke or a historical necessity, it feels like Dudley has patronised us by limiting the use of our imagination in this way.
Joanna Murray-Smith‘s text, while not a huge slap in the face when relating it to my own life, accesses some thought-provoking challenges and touches on some important current topics. Specifically, the idea of loneliness and isolation, while the issue of gender inequality in the literary industry is also heavily touched upon.
Director Lucy Bailey‘s work is highly effective when in the full swing of things, however, at times it feels too easy – such as the use of sound to influence a feeling that the actors are more than capable of creating themselves within the action; silence is often more uncomfortable. Equally, during the transitioning of scenes, while challenging seeing as there are only two characters, it feels as though the ball is dropped. Casting by Ginny Schiller perfectly captures the relationship of the successful older generation and struggling fresh talent.
Switzerland is an excellent display of a unique relationship with honest acting and a few interesting challenges. However, the thrill is predictable, and at times the action isn’t quite as intriguing as it perhaps could be.
Switzerland is playing The Ambassadors Theatre until January 5. For more information and tickets, click here.