Bournemouth Little Theatre Bournemouth Little Theatre, Bournemouth John Sivewright
27 June 2023
For several years now, Bournemouth Little Theatre have offered, in addition to their yearly programme of six full length plays, a variety of Studio Productions. These are shorter pieces, typically presented with minimal staging and smaller casts, and take advantage of BLT’s intimate, 85-seat theatre. Judging by the strong standard of performances and the highly appreciative reaction of the first night audience, The Intervention is another winner for the BLT Studio Production division.
This two-hander from Mike Bartlett is a hard-hitting and thought-provoking commentary on friendship as characters A and B (generically named to allow the roles to be played by actors of any gender, age or ethnicity) find their three-year period of comradery almost fatally rattled by a strong disagreement over war developments in the Middle East. While their friendship seems to be built on such argumentative banter, this issue sees it strained to near breaking point as other tensions and personal problems rise to the surface, notably A’s drinking habits and B’s choice of partner. Whether or not they can maintain their bond is the thrust of the story, but it’s a piece of theatre that raises challenging themes. How far should you take an argument before agreeing to disagree? When is it right to strongly grill a friend on their lifestyle choices, if at all? This piece will likely leave the audience with as many questions about themselves and their relationships as they might have about A and B’s eventual fate.
Being a two-hander, this was an especially demanding job for the actors, and Philippa Hendry and Anne Charbel both rose to the challenge. Philippa’s turn as A was a real tour-de-force, as she coped admirably with the physical requirements of the role (with particularly impressive balancing skills on a ladder!). She played drunk with consummate ease, had a natural and engaging style of delivery and worked hard to produce a fully three-dimensional character. Anne was probably done a slight disservice by the author, as B didn’t have the range of emotion and depth to play as A, but she brought out the exasperation of her character effectively and her despair in the closing scene reminds us how we all have moments when we really need a friend when there seems little else left.
Being a Studio Production, there was little in the way of set, props or elaborate costume, but this was to the play’s advantage – the audience were totally sucked into the story and got to spend a captivating hour and twenty minutes with two very different characters going on painful yet engrossing journeys. Caroline Burr, the director, should be very proud of the end result, as she and her cast and crew have served up a riveting play.
This production runs until Friday evening and is well worth going out of your way to catch. Audience numbers were disappointing on the opening night, and one wonders whether that might be down to BLT having initially advertised the play as running without an interval? Due to the overall running time, the Club chose to switch gears on opening night and have a 20-minute break at the halfway point. This is an excellent play and, if the lack of an interval would have put you off, don’t let it, as there’s now a chance for a toilet stop and an ice cream after all.