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The Inside Man / The Interview
Published on Sunday, 15 May 2011

4 stars

Upstairs at Three and Ten (venue website)
13-15 May, 3:00pm-4:10pm; 17 May, 8:30pm-9:40pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.

It's always tricky to rate double bills, especially when one half feels so much stronger than the other. Take this pair of original scripts from playwright Matthew Turner; the first is competent enough, but it's the second which earns that coveted fourth star. Inspirationally conceived and skilfully executed, it's a seeming flight of fancy which, almost unnoticed, turns and plummets back to the cold, hard earth.

The two pieces work well enough together - though I'd have liked a bit more creativity around the mood-dampening scene change - and there's a definite interest in seeing the three actors returning to the stage in totally different roles.  Both scripts are heavily based on character, and both have twists in their tales, with the apparently-straightforward initial set-ups proving to conceal rather more.

The first play, The Inside Man, sees the trio bound together - sometimes literally - by their presence at a botched jewellery heist.  Actor Peter Henderson carries the weight of this piece, with well-drawn (and extremely annoying) mannerisms offering constant surprise and humour.  But the whole caper could have been pacier, and not all the one-liners were successfully sold.  Above all, it felt a tiny bit predictable; the scenario's not all that original, and I'd guessed at the final twist far too long before it came.

But there are no such worries around the second script, The Interview, which left me wondering and kept me thinking till the very final word.  Henderson excels again as the formidable Sir Gerald, who quizzes his hapless candidate with melodic tones and bulbous, staring eyes.  But the zen-like interview isn't quite what it seems - and the script glides almost unnoticed from gentle humour to brutal truth.

Alicia Ambrose-Bayly seemed a little impassive early on, zoning out until it was time for her cue, but she came into her own towards the end of the piece as she moves to centre stage. And Stephen Cheriton is maybe best of all, convincingly unwinding a tangled knot of emotions as the horror he must face is quietly revealed.  The Interview is a compelling realisation of a disturbingly believable script... and if it stood alone, it would still be worth your time and money.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.