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An Intervention (Susan Elkin reviews)

An Intervention

By Mike Bartlett

Directed and produced by Vernon Thompson

Technical mananger Miran Barry

Hen and Chickens Theatre


Star rating: 3


Mike Bartlett’s 2014 two-hander is an exploration of friendship with two pretty volatile people in the equation. They disagree about an overseas war in which Britain is intervening and the conflict becomes, in a sense, a metaphor for the relationship between these two unnamed people. In the text Bartlett calls them A and B.

In Vernon Thompson’s production A is a woman in her late twenties.  B is a man about the same age and both are white. She is a teacher and he’s a university lecturer. In fact their background is irrelevant. It could just as easily be two men, two women or A male and B female and they could be of any ethnicity or age.

A (Jessica Olim) has a drink problem, is vivacious and furious with her “bestie” – they’re been close for three years –  first, for approving of the war and later for taking up with a patronising (maybe) woman called Hannah with whom he eventually has a child. Olim sustains all this with plenty of passion and forthrightness although her character is often desperately and implausibly unreasonable. This piece is meant to be a comedy but it certainly isn’t a bundle of laughs.

Andy Dixon, who took over from indisposed Jamie Woolf five hours before the opening performance earlier this week, is to be warmly congratulated.  He has the book in his hand but barely looks at it because he’s almost completely on top of the play. He gives us tolerance, kindness, anger and despair in a nicely nuanced way. And considering they’re been working together for only four days, he and Olim bounce off each other with impressive ease.

The play itself is a strange beast though. 75 minutes is a long time to sustain intense duologue even with blackout breaks of a few seconds to indicate time moving forward. It feels cumbersome in places as if Bartlett is wondering where to go next and how to contrive it. Not actually one of his best.

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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