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Review: Distance at Park Theatre

An urgent play for our times by Alex McSweeney

14 September, 2018 — By Lucy Popescu

Adam Burton, Richard Corgan and Abdul Salis in Distance. Photo: Richard Gavenport

Alex McSweeney wrote Distance as a way to come to terms with the suicides of five men he knew. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. This is an urgent play for our times thrillingly staged by Simon Pittman and his team.

Steven (Adam Burton) meets an old friend Alan (Abdul Salis) on the train to Manchester. Both are travelling to the same job interview. Steven is well-prepared, Alan is not. But Steven is hiding an inner darkness behind his confident exterior. He is barely able to hold himself together. During their journey Steven reveals that he has recently separated from his wife Sonja (Lindsay Fraser).

In a series of flashbacks we learn that Steven suffers from a debilitating depression, has a drink problem and finds it difficult to control his anger. Particularly memorable is the electrifying scene between Steven and Sonja arguing about their child’s welfare as he cries in the background. Light relief comes in the form of The Duke (Richard Corgan), a fellow passenger, Welsh troubadour and an incorrigible fare dodger.

Bethany Wells’ stunning design makes an art form out of scene changes. Images of the passing landscape are projected on a train window which also reflects the characters sitting in the carriage. Chairs slide apart to demonstrate a sense of distance between Steven and the people he encounters or frames are pushed together to box Steven in. This fluctuating sense of claustrophobia and distance mirrors his gradual unravelling.

Burton gives an unflinching and convincing portrait of a man at the end of his tether. An outstanding piece of theatre.

Until September 29
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