Friday, 24 July 1998
CLOSER , MTC, July 24, 1998
CLOSER by Patrick Marber MTC
At Fairfax Studio until August 22, 1998
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
"Liar, liar. Pants on fire!" Everybody lies in English playwright, Patrick Marber's Closer. Like his chronic gamblers in Dealer's Choice, they are all out of control but in Closer the lack of control relates to love..
Dan (Marco Chiappi), a needy, aspiring novelist who writes obituaries, meets Alice, (Asher Keddie) a brazen 20 year-old stripper, when she walks into London traffic without looking. This is how she lives her life.
Anna, (Jane Menelaus) a stylish photographer, meets Dan when she takes his publicity shot for his soon-to-fail novel. Larry, (Robert Menzies), a dermatologist and social primitive, encounters Anna, by Dan's contrivance, in an aquarium. They all fall in love: serial monogamy. Ah, the nineties!
The characters are not likeable but the actors are. Menelaus is subtle and magnetic as Anna, Chiappi plays Dan as the hopeless romantic, Keddie is a perky Alice and Menzies is a suitably unpleasant and vulgar Larry.
The secrecy of guilty sex is attractive. These modern people are easily bored or disillusioned. They crave their fantasies made real.
Designer, Judith Cobb's romantic blue moon looms over the space that is piled with furniture echoing the temporary state of all four relationships.
But Marber's people, despite several split ups and lots of tears, never manage to gain our sympathy or elicit our compassion. They remain shallow and lack warmth. The actors rattle around in the cavernous space as if it is too huge to allow them to be intimate.
The problem is not in performances nor in Bruce Myles sleek direction, but in the writing. The dialogue is often funny but never penetrates the surface. They speak in glib phrases that alienate us. The narrative is entertaining but thin. Marber places all dramatic moments off stage.
His history in stand-up comedy writing may keep Marber distant from the personal. He is one of the international wave of young men who have been too quickly promoted onto the mainstage.
His women.speak like men, almost as the mouthpiece for male fantasies. The two men engage in a funny, grotesque internet sex chat, Dan pretending to be a woman to tease his unwitting victim. The internet chat is sexual in a pornographic, adolescent way. These days, we are unshockable.
Men's attitude to pornography is still the main lapse in understanding between genders. Women speak a different language. Larry should have guessed it was a man on the other end of his cyber fantasy. We hope all men are not trapped in this phallo-centric stage.
By Kate Herbert