There is a neglected and dusty Philatelist’s display cabinet on stage for MAURITIUS at the New Theatre. A shrewd observer, while peering in, may find a hidden treasure. Theatre going is a bit like that too and a keen, educated audience member will always find something to watch and be engaged in. For me, the story, Theresa Rebeck’s 2007 script, was the key to my interest in Sure Foot Productions’ show.
Jackie( Kitty Hopwood) is obviously uncomfortable as she gingerly enters Philip’s seedy stamp shop. She is easily dismissed by this stamp expert (Andy Simpson) who won’t even look at the album she clutches to her chest. Lurking around is Dennis (Peter-William Jamieson) who sympathetically thumbs through her book. Something might have caught his eye but it turns out that Jackie is in an inheritance tussle with her sister Mary (Emma Louise) and may not own the object of desire. The little piece of paper also attracts local thug and wiseguy Sterling (Brett Heath) who has a long history with Philip and philately.
There are a few too many frequent repetitions and riffs on a theme in the script, but there is also an implication that tension and simmer could build well to the violence of the final scene. Rebeck’s script also has a strong mystery feel with room for comic moments. However, despite their hard work this cast struggled to bring the play to life.
Static, stilted and bland, the direction (Richard Cornally) sees very little movement and a great deal of shouting across the wide stage. He has allowed his characters to stand flatfooted with their arms tight across their chest or stuffed into pockets, constrained and forced . Voices are strident or huffy.
Nor are the cast supported by the lighting design which has hot spots and dips all over. The set does the job to show the two spaces but had a nasty wobble on opening night.
But there are things to see… moments when the play does lift. The cat and mouse about the money is well played. Dennis manages to be ingratiating and untrustworthy without being smarmy. Mary shows distinct signs of having been in therapy. There is something emotional happening between Jackie and Dennis. So … a show for a seeker of hidden enjoyments.
And I was carried along the story, even if the ending had a predictability that made it unsurprising.
MAURITIUS continues at the New Theatre, Newtown until 29th July.