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Two young men in plain, white clothes greet me and lead me to the barest of humble rooms, where I am about to see a piece of new writing.
These are the playwrights, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, who have bravely cast themselves as the two sole actors of the piece. They speak excitedly about their creation, developed and rehearsed simultaneously “at the kitchen table.”
Fairway Manor is the product of disillusionment with traditional theatrical modes of expression and the desire to show this stagnation while experimenting with new types of communication. With six directors involved in the production, the play draws on a wealth of dramatic experience and provides the creative input that would have come from the casting process.
Each of the six directors takes charge of two scenes – which runs the danger of losing direction – yet, for cohesion, even the directors have an overall director (Ella Thackray). Everything has been well conceived in this production; these are people who truly understand theatre and clearly enjoy what they are doing.
The plot is simple, but the play complex: the Cowards are hosting their annual garden party with a point to prove, namely that nothing is untoward in their home, despite the virulent weed threatening the very foundations of the building. Their best-laid plans come to nothing and they lose their grip on reality. If our bourgeois couple has lost the mantle, these two have certainly taken it up.
We see their lack of interest in the status quo, but rather than being simple flâneurs, they are galvanised by their critical faculty towards their employers. It is the servants who indicate, in their engaging and articulate (fragmented) rhetoric, the direction in which drama as an art form might advance.
Lines are delivered flawlessly with impeccable timing. Robertson is hilarious as the insufferable Mrs Coward, his shrill resounding melodrama reminiscent of Keeping Up Appearances, while Murphy is convincingly stoical as Mr Coward. The physical interaction between the two actors is appropriately stilted in the marital portrayal and fantastically fluid with them as hired help.
Fairway Manor is compelling, if overambitious, in its theatrical essays – I look forward to seeing the finished product. Whether you are looking for lofty theoretical ideals, an invitation to think differently, or just something new that holds your focus, this play is bound to have something for you.