Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Presumption, Southwark Playhouse

Review: Presumption, Southwark Playhouse

Written for Culture Wars, 28.11.2008

Love is in the air at the Southwark Playhouse – only not the sort of love that takes your breath away. Rather the sort that, like breathing itself, has become a staple function of existence. With a doting attention to mundane minutiae, Third Angel celebrate a love seldom seen on stage or screen and, in doing so, sway any aspirations from perfection to contented, humdrum humanity.

Presumption explores a relationship, seven-years in, once the passion and peacock feathers have settled. Beth and Tom have both independently realised that things have changed. The question is whether for better or worse. Sure, they have become knotted together, with shared possessions and comfortable silences, but that knot seems inextricable, surrounded by hypothetical affairs and possible alternatives.

The strength of the piece lies in Third Angel’s refusal to paint in black and white. As such, Presumption is at once feel-good and melancholy; the union within both robust and frail. Beth and Tom’s relationship is a seismograph of constant tremors without earthquakes or a field of molehills ready to be made mountainous. Through them Third Angel ask, “Is this all there is” whilst simultaneously suggesting that a cup of tea and a welcoming kiss are all anyone could ever need.

Yet, it’s also extremely well-considered, whereby form and content are perfectly entwined. Throughout the piece performers Lucy Ellinson and Chris Thorpe construct a clutter-filled living-room according to the markings on a bare stage. As they build it together, the effort, teamwork and compromise that the relationship has required becomes touchingly clear. Everything has its proper place; everything has significance and history. Accordingly, Presumption gets right underneath the notion of your entire world falling apart.

Ellinson and Thorpe perform with dazzling openness – utterly convincing as characters yet also allowing something of themselves to slip through. Whether playing with finely-tuned details, such as their shared head-tilts, or the broad comedy of struggling under furniture, they remain engaging, empathetic and extremely likeable.

A thought-provoking, tender and, at times, tragic look at normality, Presumption will leave you longing to get home for all the right reasons. It is a warm bath, run by another – no candles, no rose petals – but just right nonetheless.

Photograph: Mark Cohen

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