Monday, May 11, 2009

The Cryptogram

This was a review of the play The Crypotram which I saw in London in 2007. The man I waited to meet was almost an hour late. If he hadn't been late I don't think I would have read the culture section in The Sunday Times and I wouldn't have seen the glorious review it gave the play The Cryptogram. I wouldn't have known Kim Cattrall was in it or that her performance was described as a master-class. I may have, instead, gone to see some musical the following Monday evening, in London there is always something to see but your choice is usually a lucky dip off the cards on the TKTs notice board in Leicester Square. I have often been familiar with David Mamet's work as a playwright or a screen writer but I had never heard of The Cryptogram. Written in 1994 and despite it's 1950's setting this feels like a brand new and very exciting work. This production is directed by Josie Rourke. The review and the fact that Kim Cattrall starred in it made me glad that I was able to get a ticket. It was also my first time in the Donmar Warehouse. I had no idea how beautifully intimate the theatre is. There are just 4 rows of seats on the front of the stage and also to the sides with overlooking floors above. My seat was downstairs. The set beautiful, elegant, simple American furniture creating it's 1950's style and a high staircase to the side. The story is of a young boy, John (Adam J. Brown), who on the eve of a camping trip, can't sleep and he spends half the early evening ruminating and debating and worrying with his mother Donny (Kim Cattrall), her long time friend Del (Douglas Henshall) is present on that evening as well. They await the return of Donny's husband Robert. Well, The Sunday Times gave far too much of the story away, as at least two thirds was revealed which would have better left to unfold. It is also a very short play, one hour and five minutes but one that feels longer in a good way and because it is Mamet at his best and a lesser known work, it is time to savour. I did find the character of the child, John, whiny and annoying but that is what he is meant to be, his mother's patience becomes the audience's too. But it is the child who is pivotal to the unfolding of the drama and he has the majority of the dialogue in this hour and it is a credit to all 3 young actors who play the part of John in this production's run. Every word said is important, if I saw this play again I would get something else out of the dialogue. Douglas Henshall is truly wonderful here, wide eyed, nervous, vunerable and desperately trying to amend something that cannot be as the night unfolds. Even though I was star struck watching Kim Cattrall she is amazing here. She is elegant and perfectly mannered or composed throughout until there is no need to be anymore. It is to Donny that a cruel blow will follow close after the first, the audience gripped in her emotions, perfectly portrayed in Cattrall's gaze. She is the central character, the one whom the focus of the story is even though this is a play about the turning point in childhood where something happens and things will never be the same again. It is also about the turning point in friendship. This is a play that is heavy in symbolism. What we hold on to, why we do it and what we're left with by doing so. A few minutes into the start of the play, directly behind me, there was a loud crash, I literally jumped and for two days had a crick in my neck afterwards, it sure sounded for real but it was the sound of a teapot laden tray being dropped and then the voice of Kim Cattrall apologising and her introduction. This off stage moment is crucial to the hour ahead, the start, the events now in motion. The crashing noise was right in my ear, at first I thought her voice was a recording but then a second later she strides out, all 50's tweed skirt and ladylike, a true star. Over the next hour you knew this actress, pigeon-holed for a certain TV icon role, belonged on the stage.
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