Director Trish Thompson has choreographed her talented company well, and uses every corner of the well-designed set excellently, though why there is so little grass bemuses me. Good, if rather fierce lighting, fine costumes, and an evocative soundtrack also complement the production.
So why did I walk away from The Mill feeling so frustrated? It wasn’t the acting; Richard Oliver and Andy Allen particularly shine in a classy company. Nor is it the slick direction, though the pace and speed of thought of the characters was woefully slow during the first and third acts – the evening should have been ten minutes shorter. All technical aspects were good and the friendly, professional front of house staff were as kind as ever.
It’s the script. It’s not very good. It plods along at times; acts two and three should have been severely cut. It looks for cheap gags, often with a crass, homophobic basis. The set up of the story provides opportunities for moments of tenderness and real emotional journeys, but the writers have taken none of them, preferring rather to opt for superficial stereotypical responses. Most of the characters arrive with one descriptive phrase (‘unhappily married’. ‘angry and vindictive’) and stay that way throughout. And I didn’t believe that Richard had been a highly successful Hollywood cameraman who now has an Oscar propping open his toilet door; this is not the actor’s fault - the script doesn’t give any indication of his past visual flair, but has him baffled by a crossword clue instead of taking hilltop walks and gazing at sunsets, as surely such a man might. It is lazy writing.
It could have been a deep play. It could have moved me, without losing any of its pathos or wit. Instead it just skimmed across important questions and marched over what are actually very sensitive issues. I was disappointed.