Theatre in Wales

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New Scots Writing Well Worth the Journey

Theatre of Scotland

My Romantic Historry- Bush Theatre/ Sheffield Theatres/ Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company , The Door, Birmingham Repertory Theatre , August 31, 2010
Theatre of Scotland by My Romantic Historry- Bush Theatre/ Sheffield Theatres/ Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company If “My Romantic History” were a painting it would be by Watteau. D C Jackson’s play has the narrative of a deceptive lightness, the surface splash of technical virtuosity, the ease of eye to the viewer that were the hallmark of that painting genius. These qualities led one reviewer, one of the sharpest, to view it as “mostly froth but it's got a big, wistful heart.” Not so; the writing contains sharp shards of pain from the lives of thirty-something singletons. D C Jackson’s writing probes insightfully at the way first love casts a long shadow in its wake.

Independence- financial, familial and sexual- is still a relatively new condition, relatively limited, for young adulthood. “My Romantic History” is best read as a thematic variation, thirteen years later, on Patrick Marber’s “Closer.” And it’s fun too.

Work with your hands, urges a new best-seller in the US. White-collar work, midway in the organisational hierarchy, it says, is the new helotry. One whisk of a corporate decision- and it can happen any time- and your job is in Bangalore.

D C Jackson catches, but lightly, some of the strangeness of office life, the weirdly half-formal, half-social existence between vaguely connected colleagues. Like in “the Office” itself there is no great urgency to work, no impossible daily e-mail mountain, no struggle to meet sets of performance standards that are mutually self-contradicting. It is not a polemic; situation and character are all.

The couple are jaunty office newcomer Tom (Ian Robertson in a performance of high charm and energy) and two-floors-away colleague Amy (Alison O’Donnell with a low fringe hovering over eyes of a shrewd intelligence). Rosalind Sydney is perky Sasha, the weekend Samba band player successfully securing love in her own way.

Sasha is that character in every office, the social oil which all organisations need but whose presence for the new-comer rapidly palls. She makes her brisk entries via a filing cabinet in Chloe Landsford’s packed set. Rosalind Sydney also gets to play deliciously a series of variously socially challenged males.

There is a plot point in “My Romantic History” which might mark D C Jackson as a woman. But not so it would appear. If so, the empathy with his character Amy and the less of it for Tom are all the more commendable.

An anonymous piece of vox-poppery has commented on a “somewhat predictable plot structure.” Not in my experience; the structural device that Jackson deploys is novel and arresting. Maybe I have been at the wrong plays but I have seen it just once, in an experimental piece. In insight and surprise it delights.

Lyndsey Turner’s direction fluently marries the verbal flow between dialogue and direct address. The action moves at speed in and over a mess of boxes and office clutter that would fail a Health and Safety inspection ten times over.
In flusher times “My Romantic History” would be spotted by an entrepreneurial eye and smartly bounced into Shaftesbury Avenue. When the Hampstead Theatre was at the top of its game their productions did it regularly. Even now “My Romantic History” looks as though it has legs to keep it running quite a while.

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“My Romantic History” plays at the Door, Birmingham Repertory Theatre until 11th September

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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