Some Kind Of Bliss @ Trafalgar Studios, London


Lucy Briers

directed by
Toby Frow
A woman goes for a walk. From London Bridge to Greenwich. That, in essence, is the plot of this new one-woman show written by Samuel Adamson. Except that Adamson clearly thinks one woman walking isn’t sufficiently dramatic enough, so en route she has sex, gets mugged and steals an ice cream van all this before she even arrives at Lulu’s house.

As with Adamson’s earlier play Southwark Fair, this is a play in love with London life south of the river. That play was critcised by many for being far too whimsical and frothy a thing for the National Theatre, but being unopposed to a bit of whimsical froth now and then I quite enjoyed it. This new play however, is altogether more inconsequential, and it rather grated as a result.

Rachel is a thirty-something journalist who works for the Daily Mail and specialises in vapid celebrity lifestyle features, the kind of thing where she can easily devote five hundred words to a bath-room suite or an aubergine sofa. Her husband is loving and affectionate but she feels stifled and when she bumps into an arrogant ex outside a theatre, it triggers something within her.

The play is at its most involving when Adamson attempts to flesh Rachel out as a character. The episodes where she remembers her late uncle, who fronted a Bowie tribute band called Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Croydon, contain the bud of something interesting; Rachel still clearly assesses her life by whether her uncle would think it was cool or not. But Adamson continually derails thing by pushing the story to extremes so one minute Rachel is moaning in sexual ecstasy after a liaison with a sixteen year old boy, the next she is on her knees and terrified after being mugged. Both of these things feel crow-barred in, they come from nowhere, and don’t really push the narrative forward in any meaningful way.

Lucy Briers, in the demanding role of Rachel, is very good though. She manages to successfully steer the audience through all the flash backs and through all the awkward jolts in the narrative. Fluidly moving from exhilarated highs to fearful lows, she manages to convey something of Rachel’s gradual realisation of how unsatisfied she is with her life under the surface, even when the play is at its most aggressively quirky.

When describing London, the writing is at its strongest – Adamson has an endearing passion for the city’s forgotten corners that comes through. Toby Frow’s production is also varied enough to hold your attention throughout, and, as I said, Briers gives it her all as Rachel. But, whether you fall for this or not, really comes down to your reaction to opening lines such as: Today – after I’d had the electric sex, got clobbered, killed the dog and parked the hijacked ice-cream van – I found the pop legend’s house in Greenwich.”

It has its charms, but I just found it all bit too kooky-by-numbers for my tastes. And, if you’ll excuse the predictabe sign-off, bliss was most notable by its absence.

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