“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” stated Newton. In David Levaux’s Donmar Warehouse production of Closer, we see Newton’s laws of physics personified: when you fall in love with someone completely, they eventually leave you (usually for someone else).
Written nearly 20 years ago, this production is successfully contemporary. The use of large-scale projections and a minimalist set reinforce the modern setting, and the language has not dated. Whilst this was initially surprising due to our reliance on instant communication technology, the focus of Marber’s play is the relationships; these remain timeless. Excellent performances by the ensemble cast of four (Nancy Carrol, Oliver Chris, Rachel Redford and Rufus Sewel) and Marber’s snappy dialogue fully engage the audience, reminding them of the absurdity of love and the pain of its loss.
Repeatedly throughout the play, the absurdity of love and lust is highlighted. We all want what we cannot have, and once we get it, we want someone else. The story condenses several years into an intense two hours but due to the outstanding characterisation and range of roles, the audience can relate to at least some element of the constant musical chairs of falling in and out of love. The repetitive, mindless toying with a Newton’s Cradle reminds us of the inherent pointlessness of our own relationship’s difficulties, which feel like the world is collapsing in that moment.
The performances and the play itself are the stars of this production, but it is not without its faults. During several of the regularly-occurring arguments, there were unrealistically lengthy pauses between lines. The direction was obvious in these moments, but may have been a deliberate directorial choice to emphasise the ridiculousness of the moment. Redford’s delivery could tend towards overly sarcastic and lacked some of the nuance of the others’ but again, this may have been a character choice to highlight her youth.
Despite characters that all can relate to, this is not a play that naturally reflects life. It liberally utilises humour to again draw attention to the absurd, but has a painfully beautiful ending that drops us to earth with a resounding thud. We are each surrounded by a wall of lies, falling in love with these same constructions of others. With attraction, trust and love, we take down our walls. But once we see the flaws in the other, we no longer want them. We go, looking for another perfectly constructed fabrication – the next ball in Newton’s Cradle.
Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆
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