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Duelling Productions’ No Quarter at Network Theatre

No QuarterThe affluent community in which No Quarter is set allows for accents from brothers Robin (Ryan Whittle) and Oliver (George Watkins) that Tommy (Simon Mokhele) rightly describes as “posh”. I thought of Posh, another play that was first staged at the Royal Court Theatre, though I hasten to add there is no evidence in No Quarter of either brother or any other character being involved in any sort of ‘riot club’. It does mean, though, that the lines of argument between them are often sophisticated and articulate. This may not be completely naturalistic but it makes good theatre.

The stage is cleaner than the fairly detailed directions in the script prescribe. The room is meant to have “a shabby glory” but here, it looks more modern and clinical at floor level. What makes the property seem very dated is the sheer number of buckets in place, presumably to catch rainwater – though some of them are used for other purposes. I counted 14, there may have been more, and collectively they were almost distracting.

An early depiction of mental health issues in the person of Lily (Miranda Wilson) was handled as sensitively as many contemporary plays have a tendency to portray them. It all came across as well-researched by both the playwright and this production’s cast, such that Lily’s condition was credible.

Elsewhere, some intellectual ramblings and philosophies in life from Robin would have come across as preachy and perhaps even downright condescending had they not been expounded within the context of substance misuse. I do not mean to condone the use of illegal drugs (or even ‘legal highs’), except to say that it works here purely as a theatrical device.

The play does lose its way a little when Arlo (Freddie Thorp) rambles about something himself, and I very much agreed with Tommy in his terse response: “What’s your f– -ing point?” I never did deduce it in the end. Anyway, with all the action of the play taking place in one room, there is a lot of talking heads, and we find out what goes on in the outside world through old fashioned storytelling, which lends itself well to a set so pared down that even the door to the room must be imagined.

This production came across as pacier than I expected, at least partly because the end of Act Two is excised completely. The ending of the play itself is unchanged (there is an Act Three), but, inadvertently, the show comes across in the closing scenes as one that could have been written far more recently than late 2012. Robin asks Oliver what it is like now that he (Oliver) is now in the Shadow Cabinet; at the time of writing there have been significant reshuffles on both Government and Opposition frontbenches. But Robin’s overall disillusionment with politics is also very topical, as is Oliver’s fervent and passionate response to that exasperation, and I wonder if there are aspects of this play that in one way or another will continue to be relevant in perpetuity, such is its exploration of the human psyche and what motivates one young man to serve in Parliament and another young man, of the same breed and upbringing, to have turned out so very differently.

I did not, despite an absorbing performance from Ryan Whittle, quite get the feeling that his Robin was really defending or attempting to save his ‘kingdom’, or be prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to maintain the status quo, beyond a superficial keeping up of appearances. It felt rather that he was in denial and then in fear of the unknown.

It’s directed well by Jamie Manton, with unaffected sightlines (as far as I could tell) from any angle; the audience is seated on either side of the stage. The play ends abruptly, and with many elements of the storyline unresolved, leaving the audience to guess what happens afterwards to any of the characters. It may have frustrated some, but I think it is a key strength of the play to reflect the many ambiguous imponderables of real life so incredibly well. A fascinating production that felt far shorter than its 90 minutes.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

You were brought up on mythology. Hollow mythology. That’s why you’re all stuck, all angry, a prince in the wrong story.”
Fleeing a world he has rejected, Robin finds solace in his music and the sanctuary of his remote family home. But as his kingdom begins to crumble around him, how far will he go to save it and at what cost?

NO QUARTER, originally performed at the Royal Court in 2013, is a dark yet tender drama exploring self-identity and displacement. Polly Stenham is an award-winning playwright most widely known for her work at both the National Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre (Hotel, Tusk Tusk, That Face).

DUELLING PRODUCTIONS is an emerging production company set up and run by brothers, Jamie and Charlie Manton. Encompassing Film and Theatre, Duelling Productions aims to provide a platform and exposure for those aspiring creatives who strive to follow a career in the arts.

Cast: Ryan Whittle, George Watkins, Miranda Wilson, Rosalie Kosky, Simon Mokhele, Freddie Thorp, Evie Killip, Chloe Anna Wilcox.

Director : Jamie Manton
Associate Director : Jack Wrighton
Movement Director : Jasmine Ricketts
Costumes : Sarah Pearson
Producers : Jamie Manton, Checca Ponsonby, Jon Usher
Stage Manager : Checca Ponsonby
Technical Manager : Cameron Affleck

Duelling Productions present
No Quarter
Directed by Jamie Manton


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