Baseless Fabric Theatre, as their name suggests have no fixed home and create theatre in varying sites appropriate for the production. As part of libraries week, they are performing two of David Mamet’s early plays in a number of local libraries. David Mamet is one of America’s leading contemporary playwrights and screenwriters who has had a number of his plays produced recently in the West End.
The first play is performed in the small space between the bookshelves, the two actors arriving at one of the tables amongst the audience; the experience is more like overhearing someone’s private conversation than attending a conventional play. Bernie (David Schaal) is meeting up with his daughter Carol (Siu-see Hung) more than twenty years after he left her and her mother. David and Siu-see brilliantly capture the awkwardness of meeting up after such a long absence, they know so little about each other’s lives and yet seem so important to one another. We learn a lot about them in a very short time. Bernie, ex-military, ex-alcoholic, has been divorced twice and has abandoned both his families. He has had to leave the job he enjoyed working for the phone company when he lost his driving licence. He is now working in a restaurant with his new girlfriend who he is planning to marry. Carol says she thinks he is wasted in the restaurant, she wants her father to achieve more but Bernie is happy for the first time in years. Carol seems to be looking down on her father, her life is very different married with two stepsons and working for her successful husband. However she later reveals her life not to be so happy, she feels lonely and is tired of being independent and craves a father to cherish her.
This play shows how many of American families are broken, everyone referred to is the product of a broken home or a broken marriage. Bernie regrets his past mistakes and is desperate for some happy family life. I feel that this is an American play written for Americans, I was sometimes confused by the references to towns with English place names like Truro which probably brought the wrong image to mind!
For the second play Dark Pony, we move to the Children’s library and listen to this short piece comfortably curled up on beanbags. We listen to a father telling a story to his young daughter, Siu-see now transformed from damaged adult to innocent child enjoying the story to the full. This piece is very short, just five minutes long, and is performed in the ideal location where hundreds of parents must have sat and told stories to their own children.
This was a most enjoyable production perfect for its location. Some of the language in Reunion made it unsuitable to be performed during normal library hours, which is a shame as I would have loved to see members of the public chancing upon the performance as I did when I saw Baseless Fabrics Street Opera.
Review by Sally Knipe
South London based site-specific theatre company Baseless Fabric presents David Mamet’s rarely performed short plays Reunion and Dark Pony in libraries across South London as part of National Libraries Week 2017. The plays are two of David Mamet’s earliest work, first produced in the US in 1976 and 1977 respectively. They were first produced in the UK in 1981 and have rarely been performed here since. Both of the plays explore father and daughter relationships.
Reunion and Dark Pony
By David Mamet
9th – 15th October 2017
National Libraries Week