Review by Carmel Shortall
Trunkman Productions have returned to The Camden Fringe for the third year with their most ambitious production yet. Alternative, written by Trent Burton and directed by Melinda Burton, had its premier at The Etcetera Theatre on August 3rd 2011 and will open for a six-day run in September – also at The Etcetera.
Will has a mysterious illness that can cause him to be doubled over in pain as if he’s being knifed but nobody knows what it is – least of all his doctor. Bumbling and inept, Dr Cooper describes Will’s test results as looking like “David Lynch directed them” but can offer no further insight. Simone, Will’s girlfriend is angered by the lack of progress and urges him to try an alternative which means consulting with his homeopath sister, Carmen, with whom he doesn’t get on. Will perceives Simone’s attempts to move things along as a lack of sympathy and seeks alternative company with agreeable fellow patient, Rebecca.
The dialogue is smart and funny with some cracking one-liners. Dr Cooper offers to “hook” Will up with some strong painkillers. “Hook me up? What are you – Avon fucking Barksdale?” There are strong performances – particularly from David Swain who manages to combine Will’s anger and frustration with petulance and a perfect coming timing. But, in my opinion, Adam Bambrough as Dr Cooper is too sweetly bumbling and doggedly caring to bear any resemblance to the incompetent and arrogant borderline sociopaths that too many of us know as doctors. Claire Louise Amias is Simone, Gigi Burgdorf is Carmen and Anna Black is Rebecca.
Melinda Burton’s staging and direction is assured – the small space accomodates the doctor’s consulting room, the waiting room and Will and Simone’s flat without seeming cluttered and scene changes occur seamlessly.
The play works on its own terms as a comedy, aside from the issues it raises but no doubt these will attract a lot of interest. Ultimately, Alternative is about resisting the easy alternative for one with substance and, whether or not you agree with the finer details of the ethos of the play, it makes for a great night’s entertainment.
Alternative opens at The Etcetera Theatre, above the Oxford Arms pub, 65 Camden High Street, on 13th September and runs to the 18th, at 7.00pm every evening until the 18th when it starts at 6.00pm