SEPARATION
Theatre Museum, London WC2
Opened 29 September, 1992

Plays about playwrights, like novels about novelists, begin with quite a navel-gazing handicap. A play about a neurotic, overweight, agoraphobic playwright conducting a relationship on a transatlantic phone line with an actress confined to crutches sounds fearsomely ponderous. But Tom Kempinski's marvellous skills both with dialogue and character (even if Joe Green is his own barely-disguised surrogate) ensure that the audience sees people, not puppets, and that we care what happens to them.

Richard H. Reeves and Katherine Shannon are a little afraid to ride the script's emotional big dipper; Reeves's few explosions are relatively unheralded, and Shannon's Sarah Wise never really lets fly at this grabby schmuck. This leads to a uniformity of pace, exacerbated by one of the unfriendliest spaces in London and not helped by the incongruous decision to play techno music between scenes(!). But these aren't by any means tentative performances; each actor inhabits the play with sensitivity and commitment... and what a play. As the recent production of his latest piece at the Finborough testifies, seldom has a playwright put as much of himself on the stage with such flair as Kempinski.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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