Elizabeth Walley is able as an actress and acutely, if one-sidedly, observant as a writer. But this astigmatism is the downfall of her hour-long two-hander. Oh yes, girl meets boy, boy turns out to be an Olympic-class, blindly selfish shit – but that's never in doubt. It's not a case of hints subtly pointing the way toward an horrific climax, but of trudging doggedly on to an inevitable ending – not an arc of dramatic intensity, but a steady downward incline.
Without any drama to speak of, the writing needs to be correspondingly more finely poised to carry the work, and it simply isn't. Perhaps director Jon Harris partially realised this, or maybe it's just his preferred mode, but he over-articulates Walley's and (especially) Alec Gilbert's performances, needlessly emphasising what the script can already do for itself without pontooning over its quaggier areas. It's a combination that presses all the right ideological buttons but few theatrical ones. Under Harris's aegis the New End has set about forging a vibrant artistic policy for itself; Commodities does not advance this enterprise.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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