Fringe THEATRE REVIEW: Closer @The Rialto Theatre

Brian Butler May 11, 2019

“Tell me the truth. Without it, we’re animals” says 1 of the quartet of characters in Patrick Marber’s complex, dense, dark drama of marital and extra-marital sex and betrayal.

A CHANCE meeting involving a rescue from death by running over throws Dan (Jonathan Howlett) not a fatal attraction and relationship with Alice (Caitlin Cameron). She is a stripper, a wanderer, orphan. He is an obituary writer – what he calls “The Siberia of journalism.”

So Dan and Alice roll up to A & E with her injured leg and meet Dr Larry (Steve Chusak) a liar, cheat and philanderer.

Dan and Alice get together but her view on men is strange to say the least – “Men want a girl who looks like a boy” she claims.

And the play is full of such throw-away one liners from a master of language, worthy of his idol Pinter.

The episode ends and we fast forward – as we constantly do in this 2-Act piece – to meet the 4th character – photographer Anna (Lucy Laing) who is snapping Dan for the cover of his novel, which turns out to be all about his sexual exploits with Alice. You’re getting the idea? These 4 lives get constantly interwoven with dire results.

In a bizarre scene, Dan pretends to be Anna in a deeply sexual chat online with Dr Larry. It’s a set-up for Larry to meet Anna at an aquarium.

Fast forward again to Anna’s photo exhibition where she meets Alice again. Anna is now Larry’s girlfriend, and Dan is becoming deeply dissatisfied and trouble. In fact all 4 characters are deeply troubled and confused by their insatiable sexual appetites and constant dissatisfaction with what they’ve got in terms of partners.

Marber’s one-liners neatly sum up each twist in the tangled relationships. Dan tells Anna: “I cannot live without you.” Anna replies “You can; you do” Larry says Alice has “the moronic beauty of youth” and that he was in flares when she was in nappies.

Another one liner sums up: “Happiness is not enough; need is greater”. And Anna says to Dan
“Love bores you”. His reply is “No it disappoints me.”

And so the single sentence ripostes carry us nowhere: “Please don’t hate me – It’s easier than loving you.”

This early Marber piece struggles sometimes to escape from the Wildean avalanche of aphorisms and clever comments, but the piece is saved here by strong performances from all 4 actors.

The final scene sees a sort of reconciliation between 3 of the 4, and a startling revelation about the 4th. I won’t give it away.

Closer is a Pretty Villain production, directed by Lauren Varnfield, at the Rialto Theatre, as part of the Brighton Fringe. It ends Saturday May 11. The director will also play Moor’s murderer Myra Hindley at the Rialto Theatre from May 30.

To book tickets for tonights performance, click here:

Review by Brian Butler