Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Deceptions - Richmond Theatre

Deceptions by Paul Wheeler
Director: Joe Harmston
Reviewer: James Higgins

Paul Wheeler has written extensively for television including many well known hits such as Poldark, Begerac, Minder, Tenko and The Darling Buds of May. Deceptions is, somewhat surprisingly for such a talent, his first stage play.
The action revolves around just two central characters, played by actors better known for their roles in well known television soaps. Julia Smythe (Michelle Collins) is a well regarded, prominent psychiatrist and Adrian Wainwright (Rupert Hill) her new client. We join them in Smythe's sparse consulting room where she is attempting to ascertain Wainwright's background and start to put him through his paces.

Simon Scullion's set is very basic and consists of just a table, chair and couch against a lit background during the first act, which although it doesn't create a sense of place alone, it does however help focus the attention solely on the dialogue in the room. She explains she can only try to help him rather than actually cure him of his sexual anguish. Strangely it is Dr Smythe that initially seems more anxious than her client as she tries to make sense of his stories and antagonistic replies making you start to wonder who is meant to be asking the probing questions in order to determine the truth.

It becomes clear that Wainwright is deeply mistrusting of analysts on couches and the phenomenon associated with that. He seems to want to constantly undermine the profession that he has seemingly gone to for help. The audience is given an indication that it is an industry that we should question more carefully. As time goes by it is fairly obvious that Wainwright has other motivations behind attending the sessions and does indeed have a hidden agenda.

Act two swaps the sparse consulting room for Wainwright's almost equally sparse bedsit and the plot begins to unravel at a far greater pace than before. The twists and turns come thick and fast and we discover far more about Smythe's character as the plot develops.

Michelle Collins is very good as the bored Psychologist who has been stuck in an unrewarding job for far too long without a thought for herself and her personal life. She starts quite slowly in a fairly rigid way but by act two manages to convey another dimension to her character and excels in her role. Rupert Hill is excellent as the charming client with the hidden agenda and comes across very strongly right from the onset of the play and through to the dramatic finish.

This is an unusual and fresh contemporary play revolving around many themes and issues with an intriguing twist at the end. Despite the fact that Deceptions has a cast of just two and starts quite slowly, the audience was entertained the whole way through.

Deceptions runs at Richmond Theatre until Sat 11th July 2009
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