This meeting between Mark (Joshua Glenister) and Sam (Harriet Clarke) in a not-so-neutral venue (Mark’s flat, which he shares with his brother) has all the signs of the awkwardness of a first meeting. The opening moments of this short play see him setting out his front room in a way that only a nervous bloke preparing for a romantic night in would: he goes as far as lighting a large candle before swiftly deciding that would be overkill. The play is titled Wine for a reason – there’s plenty of it, but not quite enough is consumed to blame anything spoken or misspoken as ‘the booze talking’ or that old adage about even a broken clock being right twice every day.
But there is a kernel of truth in the idea that alcohol consumption allows people to verbalise, uninhibited, true reflections and feelings, at least here. This is further heightened by this play’s setting – Mark’s idea of using a food delivery service is initially lampooned, with some justification, by Sam, but further into the conversation, Mark’s U-turn invitation to eat out is also jettisoned, because there would not be much point in whispering counterpoints in a corner of a restaurant when they could simply continue trying to resolve their problems behind closed doors.
What is initially unspoken touches a raw nerve, but as the conversation flows, the proverbial pressure cooker explodes, leaving both parties trying to deal with the ensuing destruction. While elements of Mark’s outlook may seem outmoded, he does raise some intriguing points, even if his view of parenting is rather rose-tinted (he says nothing, for instance, of stress or sleep deprivation).
As more and more truths are revealed, the plot gets increasingly complex, and the obvious solution to achieve what Mark desires above all else becomes, ironically, elusive. Both actors perform very convincingly indeed, and when their characters do see eye-to-eye, a palpable chemistry seems to exist.
I liked Sam’s sarcasm, often responded to well by Mark; others may find her abrasive rather than candid. I warmed to her nonetheless, and although things got aggressive and confrontational, I found it difficult to agree entirely with either Sam or Mark. This is a testament to the show’s strong script (Jack West), giving both roles significant character development, and allowing the audience to see different perspectives set out in a discussion that proves to be both tense and intense. The ending has a sombre finality to it that may not, in terms of narrative, sit well in a musical, for instance, but this play is remarkably realistic to the end.
The smiles and banter in the early scenes gradually give way to antagonism – this is a pair that, whatever may have been forgotten in the long period of time since they last met, still know how to push one another’s buttons. Events, as they pan out, may be frustrating to witness, but they make for compulsive viewing. Providing no easy answers, this is a fascinatingly absorbing production, with much food for thought.
Review by Chris Omaqweng
What begins as a seemingly innocent first date between two apparent acquaintances soon reveals itself to be a meeting with much greater depth. Previous fiancées Mark and Sam have agreed to give their relationship one last chance, and attempt to have their second first date. It has been a year since Mark ran out on their relationship, but finally, he and Sam have agreed to give it one last chance. As the date progresses they can no longer hold back and the reason for him leaving is discovered. A gripping real-time drama, which bluntly confronts all sides of a ‘pro-life’ argument.
LAGO Theatre presents Wine
A new play by Jack West
Mark Joshua Glenister
Sam Harriet Clarke
Writer & director Jack West
Tristan Bates Theatre, 9-13 January 2018 at 7:45pm
Matinee: 13 January 2018 at 2:45pm