Friday, 29 August 2014
Theatre review: Eye of a Needle
The media's narrative on immigration would suggest an unstoppable tide of immigrants, but Eye of a Needle presents an overworked, underfunded bureaucracy under active pressure to turn people down - a year into doing the job, Laurence doesn't realise that approving an application is even an option.
In an assured full-length playwrighting debut, MacDonald presents the absurdity and pressure of the system but wraps it in an entertaining couple of hours as the characters clash, the scenes between Laurence and Natale filled with snappy dialogue. Initially quite unlikeable, Laurence is in the job because he can't get anything better and is prone to coming into work hung over if not still drunk from the night before; his revelation of the consequences of what he does humanises him, but MacDonald doesn't let any of the characters become caricatures - Ted could be a straightforward villain, automatically turning people down and potentially condemning them to death when they return home, but Hudson shows the pressure he's under and the emotional toll it takes.
Quartey gets to display some range as a variety of applicants, Harrison's traumatic experience balanced by a comic opening where a blatant fraud protests too much - the scene does though set up the play's ongoing theme of how impossible it is to provide hard evidence of one's sexuality in the best of circumstances, let alone after a life of trying to conceal it. Fly Davis' oppressive traverse design suggests a soul-sucking environment but Holly Race-Roughan's production keeps the energy up with John Tiffany-style dance/movement sequences between scenes. Overall Eye of a Needle manages the tricky balancing act of providing an entertaining, darkly funny evening without diminishing the seriousness of its subject.
Eye of a Needle by Chris MacDonald is booking until the 20th of September at Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre.
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes including interval.