BWW Review: THE PARLIAMENT, Cecil Sharp House
Devon (Fraser Brown), Moira (Roshi Cowen), Jasper (Harry Higginson), and Fenn (Nina Fidderman) used to spend their summers at the farmhouse owned by Goliath. When they learn that the man has passed, they reunite in the beloved place twenty years after their last encounter. Their summer idylls start to look different as they learn that nobody is who they thought them to be and those who seemed to be so close have grown distant and resentful.
The playwright's picture of the hazy and warm summer days is in direct contrast to the cold and unfriendly atmosphere of the present times. Their shared memories lurk beneath the surface and threaten to destroy what little is left.
Jessica Thompson writes and directs an elegant and sizzling piece of theatre with thunderous performances by the cast. The two couples are carefully characterised textually and in the staging, and the plot is firm in its unfolding. The five actors deliver detailed and profound portrayals as they play with their chemistry, unearthing the truth behind their teenage years.
She builds the tension with scrupulously calibrated silences and intense climaxes that are as impactful as they are cathartic. Thompson's script is meticulous and polished in its language and pace; she reveals their past without addressing any of the specific events until her text explodes with violent revelations and what's been hanging above their heads suddenly turns into open acrimony.
A very young writer, she's already mastering the art of saying lots with very little. The Parliament feels bigger than it is in this incarnation. It's not perfect - for instance, one might dispute an interval that does nothing but break the protracted intensity of the material - but it's a tight project that begs for a full production.
Employing a young company makes sense in the grand scheme of Camden Fringe, but the story would definitely have more impact with older actors. However, the current formation is impressive as an introduction to the play and the magnitude of their performances has unequivocal effect on the exceptionally positive outcome of such a powerful show.
It's safe to say that The Parliament is bound for more, and one hopes it will enjoy a long and steady life after the Fringe.