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A Kind of Alaska / Me and My Friend

An intriguing fusion of Pinter and Plowman forms this year's offering from the Orange Tree's trainee directors Svetlana Dimcovic and Paul Griffiths. As a double bill the two short plays complement each other perfectly: the first- A Kind of Alaska- is based upon the incidence of sleeping sickness that swept Europe in the winter of 1916 and which registered almost five million cases. It was an illness that defied conventional analysis, putting people into a deep catatonic sleep from which, after years, they eventually awoke, their minds often significantly undamaged by this long hibernation. In Pinter's play Deborah awakes after 29 years 'asleep', still convinced that she's sixteen, cushioned in the midst of a loving family. A doctor- Hornby- and Pauline- Deborah's adult sister, try to gently introduce her to an essentially alien world but their attempts are unsuccessful; she's still mentally stranded ' in a kind of Alaska', isolated from reality. The cast of three, competently directed by Dimcovic, convey the agonies of this situation with poise and persuasive fluency and though it's a short drama it has an incisive edge.

Gillian Plowman's poignant piece revolves around two men who have been released from psychiatric care into the community yet are manifestly unable to deal with the real world, forging their own eccentric routines in order to give their lives a sense of purpose. The beauty of Plowman's writing is its subtle blend of pathos and humour that is enormously engaging; and this comes across from the very first as Oz and Bunny- superbly embodied by Adam Kay and Morgan Symes- conduct a mock interview that is both hilarious and affecting as the men's mental state becomes increasingly apparent. Warm, witty and yet ultimately bittersweet, Me & My Friend is a miniature gem, brilliantly realised by cast and director alike.

(Amanda Hodges)


Production Photos by Robert Day

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