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Say Something Happened

by on 6 February 2018


Tea, Scones and Tension

Say Something Happened

by Alan Bennett

NTC at Network Theatre, Waterloo until 4th February

Review by Georgia Renwick

In a departure from the more off the wall, experimental Vaults Festival fare going on all around, Say Something Happened is a rather more sedate offering out on the fringe, tucked away in the independent Network Theatre. The one-act play is a stage adaptation of a 1982 Alan Bennett television drama. Bennett fans will know that his work has a lot to say on the relationship between youth and age, and in our current oppositional political climate, his throwing together of their perspectives feels ever more pertinent. Are their attitudes really as oppositional as they would have each other believe?

Say Something

Mam and Dad are comfortable enough in their life together in their little grey living room. Mam twitches the curtains, watches the leaves pile up on the path and spies on the neighbours. Dad reads his atlas from his armchair and happily collects postcards of faraway places from his ‘career-women’ daughter. But then the doorbell rings. Confronted with a young and inexperienced social worker from the council, brandishing a briefcase full of notes and a local authority care questionnaire, all three must face fears about their futures as they work begrudgingly down the list.

Facing the future, as we all must do it, is often not easy. As Mam and Dad bat away questions regarding their health and future care plans, the young June reads from her notes that it is quite normal to “refuse to recognise the approach of old age”. They are older people, not old people, she is quick to clarify, but the sour expression of Sarah Wenban as Mam is more than enough to clarify how she feels about this grammatical inflection. She captures the matriarch with a no-nonsense sternness, a defiant stubbornness and unequivocal vigour. Unequivocal that is, until Mam crumbles like her scones that June Potter, the care worker, reluctantly eats. But even in her moment of emotional revelation her stiff upper lip barely wobbles for a moment, before her personal wall of stubbornness is rebuilt.

It in these moments, as hospitality is forcibly laid on June in the very British form of scones and tea, that June becomes flustered and the tables turn. She has fears of her own, fears that any young person embarking on an uncertain career path can tap straight into despite the 36 year lapse in time. Has she made the right choices? Is she the ‘people person’ she wants to be?

June’s anxiety is played wide eyed (a little TOO eye-poppingly wide eyed at times it ought to be said) by Tekle Baroti. Her loudness and awkwardness jar with Mam and Dad’s quiet, moderated ways in an appropriate youth vs. age fashion. Her accent jars with their soft Yorkshire lilt too, although it is not clear whether this is intentional, it does serve to distance her from Mam and Dad and their quiet, quaint Yorkshire life.

John Irvine, as Dad, provides a dose of calm with his softly-spoken performance. His grandfatherly way towards June is easy to warm to, that is until it is revealed he has a secret of his own. A secret from which he is dying to escape. It is a harsh reality to face what we have done, but harsher still to face what we could have done, but never will never do.

With just three actors to play with, Daniel Carter has created a set with an uncomfortable, claustrophobic quality to it. Director Charles Leo Raine resists the temptation to have them up and about playing musical chairs, so when a movement is made, it carries weight. The characters are left writhing, desperate to move, but are frozen in their fearful inability to take action.   Youth and age, it seems, have that in common.

Georgia Renwick
February 2018

Photograph by Phil Lunnon

From → Drama, Fringe, Reviews

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  1. Say Something Happened | Mark Aspen

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