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A CurtainUp London Review
We follow the serious and rather morose,George Harvey Bone (Matthew Flynn), a man who hears voices in his head telling him to kill Netta (Caroline Faber and Clare Calbraith), the woman for whom he has an unrequited passion. The voices are played by an actress, identically dressed for the most part, to the actress playing the inconsiderate and selfish Netta, who uses Bone to lend her money and buy her drinks, but who is only interested in other flashier men.
Bone's fate is to suffer increasing levels of betrayal as each time he falls for the wiles of the unscrupulous Netta. It is as if he is hypnotised as he falls under her seductive spell and subjects himself to humiliation as she and her drinking companions treat him as a figure of fun and leave him with their hotel bill. Patrick Hamilton created Hangover Square in the streets of Earls Court, in fact The Finborough could have been one of George Henry Bone's drinking stops.
Rarely have I felt so absorbed in the period as I did in Gemma Fairlie's atmospheric production. Of course the tiny space at the Finborough helps immensely because the audience is so close to the action but there is much attention to detail from Bone's old raincoat to Netta's 1940s hairstyle and the men with Brylcreemed hair, neat moustaches and sharp suits.
The exciting direction creates authentic feeling railway carriages out of sound effects, two chairs and members of the cast shining torches, first white, then red as the train speeds past lights in hypnotic progress. In Brighton, the crowds criss cross the stage in another cinematic effect of bustle and energy.
There are surprising moments too when Bone despairs that Netta has gone off with his friend Johnnie Littlejohn (Jamie de Courcy) but later finds himself among a group of likeable men who befriend him. Bone says at this point, "I am no longer an outsider, no longer a stooge." He meets Eddie Carstairs (Jonathan Kemp) the man that Netta threw herself at early in the play who besides describing Netta as sinister and scheming, says to Eddie, "Ask if she's what you want." Several scenes are set in pubs or hotels where the characters soak up the gin and it usually brings out their worst qualities as the alcohol shreds inhibition.
Hangover Square is a one sided love story with a tragic yet seemingly inevitable ending. The cast are outstanding with Matthew Flynn conveying Bone's quiet, moody alcoholism. Caroline Faber who plays Netta while Clare Calbraith narrates and does the voices will switch roles with her in the Second Act. Both women are beautiful yet self centred, cold and cruel towards Bone. In terms of value, satisfaction and an innovative programme, either encouraging new writing or rediscovering rare plays, you will find The Finborough's pub theatre more reliable than many expensive West End venues.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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