Review: Forever House, Pentagon Theatre
Fran Lowe, Arts Editor, reviews Pentagon Theatre’s production of Forever House, at Arts on the Move Festival, Devon.
I saw Glenn Waldron’s Forever House as part of Exeter’s Arts on the Move Festival, in and around Poltimore House in Devon. For Pentagon Theatre’s production, we were ushered into a quiet, freezing room in a corner of the derelict stately home, in desperate need of refurbishment. The setting, chillingly different to the summer’s day I had just walked in from, hushed the audience into an expectant silence.
Forever House is a play that offers snapshots of three different days, three different conversations, across a timespan of 13 years, all set in the same room. Initially, we are introduced to aging Graham (James Bush), and young wannabe photographer Richard (Alex Thomas), a scene in which the decaying building was the perfect setting: Graham discusses how the place needs a lot of work, and as things became more chilling, the peeling wallpaper and crumbling walls seemed all the more apt. I wonder, when Pentagon take the play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer, how well they will make use of a plain space in comparison. Bush in particular works to make sure that the nature of his character is shown to the audience, in the way he gradually moves closer to Richard, hinting at what is to come.
The middle section of the play was, I felt, the strongest. It was here that the real jet-black humour of Waldron’s play came into its own, and the audience comes to understand what the conclusion was of the previous scene. In this section, Londoner Laura (Georgia Leach) is shown around the house by cheery estate agent Becci, played by Lizzie Ryan. I last saw Ryan in a production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and she is probably my favourite character actress to come out of Exeter University in my time. This was the most entertaining section of Pentagon’s play, with the most movement, probably the best direction, and two strong female characters who related to each other very dynamically. The strong points of each scene were strikingly different, with this being the most laugh-out-loud, but that is not to say that the subtleties of character and hints at a storyline that is never fully explained to you are not a thrilling ride elsewhere.
I think that in many ways Waldron’s writing lends itself to the middle section of this play being the most entertaining, thanks to the humour in the characters and the boldness of the movements, but I was impressed with Pentagon’s production overall. The house itself becomes something of a character in the play, and its full impact is only really established in the final scene between Lucy (Poppy Harrison) and Mark (Seb Posner). The audience is led to believe in the middle scene that any belief that the house has an impact on its inhabitants is the unreasonable fantasy of the silly character Becci, but that comes to be questioned in the finale. While James Bowen and Freddie McManus’ direction was in some places a little static, they did well to invite the audience to question their own beliefs about the supernatural and the impact of death upon a place; is there any truth in it? Can what would be a forever home actually be forever ruined?
Pentagon are next performing Forever House on July 29th at the Old Red Lion Theatre, London, and then at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, August 17th-28th August, Greenside Venues, Edinburgh.