A response to The Greenwood Theatre Company’s production of
Neil Labute’s The Mercy Seat
Hen and Chickens Theatre, London Tuesday May 2nd 2017
When children grow they can lose their first stabs
At learning. Like most of us, their attacking
Becomes a series of frantic moves in the dark.
Yet out of this there are dreams
That we can only partly imagine, in which
The exception, in being partnered by light
Leaves its mark. Such was the case in seeing
The Greenwood Theatre Company forming.
A group of the young, in their twenties,
Wrestling with the most adult of airs. Neil Labute’s
The Mercy Seat deals with death’s cheat the day after 9/11.
After the towers fall, a young couple witness the individual collapse
Of their care; for the life they have built in and around
Their profession, as well as in private, as Ben, and his boss, Abby
Negotiate through the bomb dust of a shattered city state, their affair.
Jonathan Blakeley as Ben has the pleasing cool of detachment;
Entrenched in shock and opinion he rarely moves from his chair.
While Isabella Verrico commands the stage, all around us,
Showing a maturity far beyond her, with her petite form
And small years. Yet here is an actress to watch. Her accent
And burgeoning talent are faultless, along with her control
Of the moment as she conducts both Jonathan Blakeley and us,
Its quite clear, that in allowing her the main stage,
Alex Miller, the director acts wisely, as she becomes the play,
Bella/Abby is able to represent and contain adult fear.
For both the end of her love and the end of reality as we know it.
We are under constant threat from the people who do not approve
Of our lives, or our art. Muttar and his aides, in hijacking those planes
Speared all moments, just as Ben’s wife, in her phoning is there to cut to Abby’s heart.
The tension is felt, even if the atmosphere isn’t captured. When her chosen man
Knifes her future with the calm betrayal of a coup d’theatre phone call,
Abby knows. And we know too the sad lesson that for them, and all people,
What we cannot share marks our fall. Verrico captures this.
There is tragedy in her lightness and amazing depth in her silence
When she talks and wants something, pleading at times, with her man.
Blakeley entertains, with both strength and skill, but she teaches,
How the young, despite nature, and nurture, too, understands;
That the theatre is glass, reflecting back on those watching; with actors
As germs and plays’ viral, when placed under the microscope of their gaze.
A play should be a thing to contract, something under the skin
That stays with us, affecting our thinking and our emotions too;
We’re not saved. This is the lesson we share or start to share,
Watching actors. The theatre space becomes temple, as described
By Grotowski and Brook in past days. This group of young people have learnt
How to make legitimate action. As a theatre maker and teacher,
I am proud to my soul to declare that at a time when most art
Is to do with self serving motion, here, newly forming there is a special light
To be shared. No set was needed at all. No clock and no painting.
Just these new talents, breaking the dark with small flares.
We must go to plays to live more and to find the poetry of the moment.
Tonight the rhyme and rhythm was started. With Verrico as the stand out,
I say to you, simply;
Truth over fame:
That’s my dare.