Review: Insignificance at the Arcola Theatre
The friendly Arcola staff invite you not only into their intimate theatre, but practically inside of the set: a hotel room, at night, sometime in 1954. Before the audience has even tucked their coats under the seat and sipped their wine, an older man, hair on edge, enters and sits quietly on the hotel room bed, deep in thought. You will not be the only person to hijack his night.
This revival of Terry Johnson’s 1982 four-hander sees a swaggering US Senator, an escapee bombshell actress and her angry former athlete husband crash through the door, almost literally, and demand what they need from this quiet man studying his papers on the bed. The quartet are never named; instead the dialogue concerns itself with Communism and Sexism, Relativity, Stupidity, Self-Awareness and Love, all in capital letters. There are also some laughs.
The cast – let’s call them “Not Einstein” (Simon Rouse) and his new friend, “Certainly Not Marilyn Monroe” (a luminous Alice Bailey Johnson), along with “Do English Audiences Know Joe DiMaggio? Not That This is He” (Oliver Hembrough) and the foul drink of water that was “Senator Joseph McCarthy, Let’s Not Call Him” (Tom Mannion) – are great. Mannion and Hembrough have an easier task, perhaps, as their personas are not as well remembered (in fact Joltin’ Joe would probably spin in his grave if he know he was being portrayed as such a buffoon). There is a wonderful ease to the performances, the actors seem to recalibrate each time a new duo are alone in the classroom cum confessional of a hotel room, and a new set of accusations must be defended.
Alternately frantic, contemplative, topical and sad, Insignificance is well worth your time, and you might just learn something as well.
Photos courtesy of Alex Brenner