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Closer Written by Patrick Marber at Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

Patrick Marber’s play Closer had its world premiere at The National in 1997 (winning an Olivier for Best Play) and it’s now being revived twenty-five years later at the Lyric Hammersmith. Set in the late nineties, it tells the story of four people in their twenties and thirties and how their relationships intertwine in shattering ways.

Ella Hunt and Jack Farthing in Closer - Credit Marc Brenner.
Ella Hunt and Jack Farthing in Closer – Credit Marc Brenner.

The four characters are Alice (Ella Hunt) a young girl who has been knocked over by a car and is then helped and taken to a hospital by Dan (Jack Farthing). There they meet Larry (Sam Troughton) a doctor who examines Alice. We learn that Dan is a writer of newspaper obituaries who has written a book and when he has to have his photograph taken for the book, he meets professional photographer Anna (Nina Toussaint-White). Eventually, all four characters meet at various times and relationships begin, build and end.

Closer is a powerful look at these relationships and the sexual politics of four people. Dan starts an affair with the seemingly in control but waif-like Alice but at the same time has become attracted to Anna. Larry who has fancied Alice when he met her at the hospital lusts after her but then turns his attention to Anna. At times there’s an echo of Arthur Schnitzler’s play La Ronde as the characters swap partners although it’s not as linear as Schnitzler’s plot and certainly not as genteel. The language in Closer is in your face and never shies away from using both the F and C words as attack weapons. The scene where Dan is pretending to be a woman on the internet and arousing Larry who is in the same chat room (this is the early days of the internet – we even hear the sound of a dial-up modem), is particularly graphic and leaves nothing to the imagination.

Marber’s language is very rich and layered but its aggressive nature means that it’s not a comfortable night at the theatre. It’s impossible to empathise with any of the characters as they seek to destroy each other, making their lives more and more miserable. There are some comic lines, especially in act one that lighten the mood but on the whole, it’s a very dark piece of theatre.

In the past, the play has been staged minimally with four actors and a simple set but director Clare Lizzimore has gone in a different direction and has maximised the staging. Apart from the four main characters, there is a chorus of four people dressed in black who are on stage throughout. Unlike other choruses, they don’t comment on the action but are mainly in the shadows almost impossible to see. In the hospital scene, they’re at the back silently talking to each other, one of them even holds a baby. Then in a scene set in a museum, they’re looking at various objects whilst in a scene in a strip club, the girls gyrate sexually. However, they mainly act as Assistant Stage Managers bringing on and taking off props. There are also two musicians who provide some background music as well as the backing for Alice as she sings occasionally in the first act – bafflingly this doesn’t happen in act two.

Closer is a play about love, hate, infidelity, jealousy, sex, truth, lies and relationships. It’s very well written and performed in this revival but it’s not easy to love as the characters are all so dislikeable and without much charm and you leave the theatre feeling a little empty and hopeful that the relationships we’ve just watched are the minority rather than the majority and Marber isn’t holding up a mirror to the world.

3 Star Review

Review by Alan Fitter

‘What do you want?’
‘To be loved.’
‘That simple?’
‘It’s a big want.’

In the chaos of London; four strangers meet, fall in love and fall apart.

To mark the 25th Anniversary of the play’s premiere, Olivier Award winning director, Clare Lizzimore, stages a radical new production of Patrick Marber’s cult-classic about longing, lust, sex, and desire.

Would you risk it all for a moment of passion?

Lyric Hammersmith Theatre presents
Closer
Written by Patrick Marber. Directed by Clare Lizzimore.
14 Jul – 13 Aug 2022
Lyric Hammersmith Tickets

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