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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 17:14 GMT
Forty Winks
Distributed on behalf Royal Court Theatre by EPO Online

Kevin Elyot's new play at the Royal Court about a man who visits an old girlfriend after a gap of 14 years, when his mother dies, to find a family full of pent up anger and unhappiness.

(Edited highlights of the panel's review taken from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight Review.)

It was quite a slight play, just over an hour. It was quite interesting, I found it quite a profound work. It made me think a lot about the desperation of diminished choices, about mortality, about death and the choices that people make. This play seemed to be about people who had made some choices and maybe they were beginning to regret some of those choices. I found it really a thoughtful and profound work.

It seemed to be characters were stuck in moments. You have the two brothers behaving the same way they did as children. You've got him still in love with the girl he was in love with at school. You've got the girl who's trapped in this moment that happened to her on the heath. It was haunting and brilliantly constructed as well. The first scene of the play in the hotel room, when you returned to that scene after 40 minutes, the first time it's played for comedy and the second time it's tragedy. It's brilliantly constructed.

In between, you have this really un-stated relationship between the returning old boyfriend and the girlfriend's daughter. Did you find that unsettling?

No, not really. I felt it became rather inevitable that that was what was going to happen. That he would come back, very clearly to reclaim his past, and to look for something that had gone missing. He does this rather depressing dialogue, when they do this interchange, "What have you been doing?" And he goes through where he has been. It's very static and you think it's filling time. But it's clearly that he is expressing the kind of dissatisfaction with where life has taken him. What you see him repeating twice at the very end of the play is the desire to jump back and sort of do it all over again. You see that that's impossible for him.

There was a great line early on when he talked about the "littleness of life". That's what the play seemed to be about, to me.

It is rare to come out of the theatre and wish the play was longer. And that never happens to me and it did in this. And I felt that the character of Charlie by Paul Ready - brilliant, brilliant performance. I thought the play could have been about him really.

That is the point, that it could have been about him. It could have been about any of these characters. It had the kernel of something there.

Do you not think it was an idea and the characters were just used to propel a particular idea along. So it didn't really matter if it was only three or four scenes. The central idea was: how do you live with the consequences of who you used to love. What happens when the people you love go. It seemed like the characters were just there to explore and meditate on that argument.

Hildegard Bechtler must be one of the best designers in Britain today.

Beautifully designed. The lighting was fantastic, it's very realistic. You really walk into it and feel that you are there. And that's quite an unusual thing to see anyway because people don't spend that much money on sets like that.


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