AN INTERVENTION at Greenwich Theatre
Two fine performances are at the heart of Mike Bartlett’s An Intervention at Greenwich Theatre – and they needed to be good because the play stands or falls on the quality of the acting.
A sometimes nebulous narrative arc requires an act of blind faith from the audience to accept that two utterly different characters could possible sustain a friendship. Opposites attract, for sure, but they rarely endure.
However, a beautifully judged downbeat performance by Lauren Drennan as a rather prissy teacher and a brilliant turn by Helen Ramsay – in her professional stage debut - as a full-blown alcoholic in the grip of denial, self-hatred and egomania are so convincing that the flaw is largely relegated to the background.
Director James Haddrell rightly keeps the action tight and fast-paced as the pair’s friendship moves ever deeper into conflict and recrimination – a decline set meaningfully against the disaster of the allied intervention in the Iraq war which one character supports and the other loathes.
The military intervention is also reflected in the way the friends try to intervene in each other’s lives, Drennan constantly urging Ramsay to quit drinking and Ramsay trying to persuade Drennan to dump her hated partner.
The duo make a great double act, Drennan as the stooge to Ramsay’s wisecracking fool. Haddrell even includes a quick blast of Morecambe and Wise singing Bring Me Sunshine to underscore the point.
This is a play that sets out to examine the nature and responsibility of friendship and citizenship on a macro as well as microcosmic level – and thanks to Haddrell’s team it does it with aplomb.
Ramsay’s portrayal of an alcoholic is pretty much note-perfect and there are plenty of sly digs at modern societal mores to ease the gloom of her relentless descent into the abyss.
The final sequence is magnificent, a wonderfully uncomfortable mix of heartbreak and humour – and best of all, the climax is never resolved. I won’t spoil it by being more precise. But I will say it’s a terrific ending to an engaging production.
An Intervention runs till 13 August. Tickets etc at www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk