Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Theatre review: Trout Stanley

A Canadian oddity settles into the Little at Southwark Playhouse. Claudia Dey's Trout Stanley takes us to the remote cabin shared by a pair of orphaned twins. Grace (Vinette Robinson) has taken on their late father's job at the town's rubbish dump, but despite the dowdy day job she's actually attractive, confident and glamorous with a sideline in modelling - she currently dominates the local shopping mall's skyline on a billboard for a gun shop. Her sister Sugar (Sinéad Matthews) is not only physically very different but a real contrast in personality, not having left the house in the last ten years. That was when they turned 20 and their parents died, and every year since on their birthday a woman exactly their age has been killed, and it's always Grace who finds the body. They hope their 30th will herald a new start, but already a local stripper and Scrabble champion has gone missing.

Into this setup enters Trout Stanley (Dylan Smith,) a filthy, barefoot man who claims to have been walking aimlessly for years. While Grace is out at work, Sugar lets Trout in, and her initial fears that he might be the Scrabble Champ Stripper Killer don't stop her falling for him.

Dey's gently surreal play is a hard one to get a hold on. Genuinely very funny, especially in its first half, it has affection for its oddball characters even as it gets laughs from them. Trout and Sugar make a mismatched couple that somehow makes perfect sense together, and as the tone begins to darken we also see how far Grace - on the surface the one with social skills and a life outside the house - is isolated.

Vinette Robinson just about manages not to be upstaged by her own hair, providing the fiery, volatile nature of the girl nicknamed the Lion Queen; and Dylan Smith gives a peculiar charm to the wild man of the woods. But however strong a cast is they'll have trouble stealing the show from Sinéad Matthews, whose particular blend of vulnerability with commanding presence is a great fit for Sugar, and whose character development over the course of the play is a joy to watch. As is her hilariously scene-hogging solo dancing.

Shizuka Hariu's thrust design is a new configuration for the Little, and a good fit for the space although one director Matt Steinberg doesn't always seem to know how to block for, with a few awkward sightlines. The play itself didn't quite convince me it deserved all the plaudits the publicity says was heaped on it when it premiered, it's intriguing and often fun but sometimes a bit too wrapped up in its own obliqueness. But certainly for me and a lot of people I know, the cast and Matthews in particular are the big draw here, and indeed they prove the reason to see Trout Stanley.

Trout Stanley by Claudia Dey is booking until the 7th of December at Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes straight through.

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