Life but not as we know it at Abbey Theatre, St Albans

PUBLISHED: 10:01 01 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 06 May 2010

Life x 3

Life x 3

THE ABBEY Theatre Studio was full, the audience attentive - but I wonder how many went away wondering what Life x 3 was all about. I certainly did and both the play and the Company of Ten which performed it must take some credit for the fact that I was st

THE ABBEY Theatre Studio was full, the audience attentive - but I wonder how many went away wondering what Life x 3 was all about.

I certainly did and both the play and the Company of Ten which performed it must take some credit for the fact that I was still trying to work it out two days later.

Written by Yasmina Reza and translated by Christopher Hampton, Life x 3 is as the name suggests - three plays in one.

They are all variations of what could have happened on the same night at the same house on the outskirts of Paris when two dinner guests arrive for their meal 24 hours earlier than expected.

Of course there is no food and the quartet is left to make the most of an evening which has not got off to the best of starts.

In the first scene, Russell Vincent's Henri is a weak and hen-pecked husband dominated by the assertive Sonia played by Louise Edwards. By the third play Henri is altogether more assertive and much better able to deal with the news that a rival scientist has published a similar paper on the subject on which he has been working

It is Henri's metamorphosis which seems to be at the heart of the play, even though there is also recognition that Sonia and Hubert, who arrives early with his wife Ines, are more suited to each other than their respective partners.

Martin Goodman as the bullying Hubert is in stark contrast to the considerably less dynamic Ines, played by the glamorous Alexandra Stamatiou who seems to survive on gossip and very set views on childcare.

The fifth member of the cast, the child, is never seen but he dominates from behind a screen. His long-suffering father, despite his scientific credentials, is putty in the child's hands and, until the final scene, his wife's as well.

Director Norma Jenkins comments in the programme notes that the play contrasts man's ability to analyse the outermost mysteries of space with his inability to respond rationally to trivial domestic upset.

That makes a certain amount of sense but quite why it took three plays within a play to demonstrate that is still rather beyond me.

Nevertheless the performances of the cast - Russell Vincent was particularly outstanding - and the intimate setting of the Studio combined to keep most of the audience engaged with what was a bijou but thought-provoking play.

MADELEINE BURTON

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