"I really must insist on the chemistry between the four."Katie Burge with permission for Varsity

‘Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off,’ says Alice (Natalia-Paloma Zinger), ‘but it’s better if you do.’ Except that neither of these things – lying or taking one’s clothes off – seems to help matters in Closer. If anything, it makes them worse. Dan’s prank on Larry in a chat room leads to the latter’s meeting Anna; Alice and Larry’s encounter at the strip club comes back to haunt her years into her relationship with Dan. With a script enchanted by the everyday, this play certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.

Set at the stellar Fitzpatrick Hall’s blackbox, the Closer production team had just enough room to create a multitude of backdrops: a living room, a hospital, a bench in front of an implied aquarium. With each place suggested rather than shown through a pared back set design, the physical minimalism of the production countered an overwhelming dialogue in an impressive feat of creative balance. Most excellent was the use of the screen which affronted audience members with slideshows of images and videos, adding a film-like gravitas and welcome poignancy to certain scenes.

“With a script enchanted by the everyday, this play certainly isn’t for the faint of heart”

All four actors were wonderfully committed to their roles. Dan (Rob Monteiro) was a larger-than-life personality that could not help but win the audience’s support; Anna (Isobel Guthrie) felt at once sophisticated and tragic; Larry (Joe Orrell) was astonishingly in command of his expressions, and Alice (Natalia-Paloma Zinger) exuded warmth and languish, as well as raw experience. I think special mention must be given to intimacy coordinator Alice Roberts for the sparks that flew on stage – and all so convincing that I felt like opening a window to release some of the tension.

I really must insist on the chemistry between the four. Their relationships were everything one wants to see onstage: moving spectacles of human beings who love, hate, or give up on feeling altogether. With the only danger being, (especially in the second half), of teetering into pure melodrama, when a few scene cuts would have been enough to lighten the load and prevent it from feeling too emotionally taxing.

Perhaps my favourite exchange was when Anna took Dan’s picture, and subsequently Alice’s. With a heart-wrenching dialogue and deliveries which one could almost term classical, the scene was an absolute triumph. I also admired Anna and Larry’s dinner/divorce, a confrontation so tense it left me wanting more, and wondering, too, whether it could be in aid of some advanced camera work: a projection of the character’s expressions could have tied in with the play’s continual nods to photography and perspectives.

“Don’t miss it, is what I’m telling you”

When Dan accuses him of being an animal, Larry replies, ‘Yeah? What are you? ’ A vital example of the kinds of questions that Closer raises: why do we need so much to be happy? Is love fundamentally selfish? As the four characters circle around these questions, the gaps between them get smaller and smaller – and the lights dimmer – until the audience can hardly see where one person’s existence ends and the others begins. And I suppose that’s the point: to get so close you can’t think.


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Don’t miss it, is what I’m telling you. So much time and effort has been put into this by directors Emma Dawes and Imogen Carter, as well as cast and crew who have brought to life a production where everything weighs in the balance, where intimacy is saturated with guilt, and time flies in the unravelling of these most delightful lives.

Closer is showing at The Fitzpatrick Hall until Thursday 14th March.