Review by Carmel Shortall
The title of Amalia Kontesi’s play refers not only to the standard phrase uttered to journalists but, within the context of the play, it also becomes shorthand for a withholding of information and a refusal to engage emotionally.
Emma Nichols, daughter of the Prime Minister, is missing. Jonathan, one of the police officers searching for her has had to abandon a week’s leave set aside for a very personal matter. It is Jonathan who finds Emma and convinces her to climb down from her suicide perch and talk to him until dawn. He cannot remember her first name and she will not give it to him but she agrees to tell him her story.
This story is revealed through flashbacks which take place on stage in front of Emma and Jonathan. Emma appears both as her younger self and as a child interacting with her father and mother while we gain an insight to the roots of her pain.
However, her unwillingness to fight for what she wants and an awareness of her world of privilege makes it hard for us to engage with her feelings of betrayal by her father and boyfriend and so it is just as well she realises that ultimately she has betrayed herself. She has abdicated responsibility for her own life – this is her betrayal and this is what drives her to want to kill herself. Having hidden thus from herself, she is able to recognise that Jonathan is also hiding from himself. His caring, his loyalty and his devotion to duty are sham – revealed by Emma as emotional crutches as she taunts him beyond endurance.
There is plenty to get to grips with intellectually in No Comment but if I had a quibble it would be that the play fails to engage emotionally to the degree that it needs to. Emma as a character fails to arouse enough sympathy and her sense of grievance is unconvincing. Jonathan is potentially the more interesting character and if, in the future, the play is extended beyond its 75 minutes it would be interesting to see his character developed more fully and his back story explored.
Amalia Kontesi co-directs with Hannah Rees and this collaboration works well. The litter-strewn stage effectively conveys a sense of waste and neglect and the flashbacks weave seamlessly in and out of the play’s timeline.
Anatrope is a very young company – formed only last year – and the fact that they are already tackling and producing such ambitious work shows a great deal of promise for the future.
No Comment continues its run at the Shaw Theatre, 100-110 Euston Road, (every evening except the 14th) until August 19th at 6.30pm. It is followed at 9.00 by another Anatrope production – Peter. Click here to book.