Sat, 23 Jan 2021
An Intervention, at The Old Fire Station, Oxford, in front rooms everywhere until March 31
Review by JON LEWIS
CLARE Lizzimore’s rehearsed reading of Mike Bartlett’s 2014 play An Intervention should have been broadcast live from Oxford’s Old Fire Station in December, but because of lockdown restrictions, the hour-long drama is now available on the theatre’s website as an on-demand film.
Lizzimore, who directed Bartlett’s Christmas play Snowflake at the OFS in 2018, is reunited with actress Ellen Robertson from that production, who plays a character named with the initial B, performing alongside Robertson’s real housemate, Charly Clive, who plays A.
The young women have been bffs for three years. A is a teacher, her long brunette hair a feature of her Mediterranean heritage. While Bartlett gives no clues to her actual background, A is passionately opposed to an intervention made by the UK Government in an unnamed Middle Eastern war. A attends anti-war marches in London, expecting her best friend B to join her in the protests. In the first signs of a rift between them, B argues that she is in favour of the intervention so that feared atrocities can be averted.
Over five short scenes, political differences spawn personal antagonisms, highlighting growing antagonisms between the women. A classifies herself as working class, B as middle class. A suggests B’s support of the war is a ‘ludicrous right wing opinion’ associated with neo-cons while B attacks A’s decision to march alongside ‘Marxists, Islamo-fascists and anti-Semites’.
Both women intervene in the problems of the other. B tries to reduce A’s dependence on alcohol, and later, criticises A’s decision to give up her job because of excessive paperwork. A predicts that B’s new relationship with a new girlfriend, Hannah, and their decision to have a baby, will be a disaster and intervenes by forming a WhatsApp group with B’s friends and family to oppose this relationship. As time goes on, rare meetings in person between the women result in a ghosted absence as neither woman wants to be lectured by the other.
With sharp editing by Mike Clark-Hall allowing for asides to the camera, only the meta-theatrical off-stage activities suggest this is a rehearsed reading.
With excellent, natural performances, you really want these women to patch up their friendship and the excitement is in seeing whether that happens.