One of David Hare’s most revealing plays, My Zinc Bed only seems to get more prevalent with age. It explores the idea of addiction, which, in today’s society, seems almost commonplace now. There are reality shows about it, endless documentaries, and even TV commercials warning against the perils of too much (insert literally anything here). Hare’s play deals specifically with alcoholism, in the form of recovering alcoholic and poet Paul Peplow (Sam O’Sullivan). Paul gets embroiled in the glamorous life of IT magnate Victor Quinn and his wife Elsa, and finds himself struggling to maintain those carefully constructed walls it took him so long to build.
Sean Taylor is salacious as Victor Quinn, his sensational voice reverberating throughout the space. He brings a calm assuredness to Victor, and there is the sense that he never quite says what he means. This is obviously part of Victor’s strategy for success, and Taylor brings meaning to every look and pause on stage. Danielle Carter is enviably alluring as Victor’s wife, and manages to find complexities in her character that weren’t necessarily written in the text. It seems that her marriage to Victor is based more on sympathy than love, and Carter manages to find the balance between victim and femme fatale perfectly. O’Sullivan is a little stilted in his role, but that could also be as a result of his character’s defeatist personality. O’Sullivan and Carter have great chemistry on stage, but the stakes just never seem high enough.
Mark Kilmurray’s direction works well in the small space, and Tobhiyah Stone Feller’s minimalist set is a nice balance with the verbosity of the play. However, the use of plastic ‘glasses’ was an annoyance, as was the absence of liquid being poured into said glasses. The only time it appeared was when O’Sullivan had to pour some over his head, and it just happened to be conveniently (and obviously) placed in the bottom of his cup. To choose a production that centres on the addiction to a liquid, only to then erase it entirely from the design, is an odd choice.
Hare is a brilliant writer, and the actors do a wonderful job lacing their words with lashings of subtext. But overall, despite impressive individual performances, the production doesn’t overly excite. This is surprising, considering the concoction of people bringing this show together. It is by no means a disaster, and its awareness of, and sensitivity, to addiction is commendable.
Playing at the Ensemble Theatre until November 22nd.
Alana Kaye – Theatre Now
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