The Royal Court Young Writers Festival has an unrivalled reputation for discovering new voices and for showcasing the best plays by the most exciting young talent. T...… Read more
YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS’ SEASON 2004
A Genesis Project
A season of new plays by young writers developed by the Royal Court Young Writers Programme.
Stella left the TV studio after her daily slot. Alex is up for a big night out. David has opted for a quiet evening in. But this is no ordinary night there’s an abduction on the news and it won’t stop raining.
Rob Evans developed A GIRL IN A CAR WITH A MAN at World Interplay Young WritersFestival 2003 in Australia, for which he was selected by the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.
Design: Ultz, Lighting: Ultz, Johanna Town, Sound: Paul Arditti
Cast includes: Claudie Blakley, Mark Bonnar, Mark Leadbetter, Andrew Scott, Sukie Smith
Media Partner TIME OUT
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Dates in November
|Fri 26 Nov 2004||12:00am||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
Sold out Performances
We’re living life through the lens, says Rob Evans in A Girl in a Car with a Man, whether it’s craving small-screen celebrity or conducting our lives under the gaze of security cameras. Even before Joe Hill-Gibbins’s staging has begun, monitors above us flash up live shots of people in the Royal Court’s bar, passers-by in the street and the audience taking their seats. Sudden static then gives way to CCTV footage of a man approaching a little girl on a London street and the pair getting into his car. This abduction is to haunt Evans’s characters in various ways.
On a rainy evening after the crime, Stellar (Claudie Blakley), a fame-seeking Shopping Channel presenter from London, turns up at the Scottish home of David (Mark Bonnar) claiming that shes crashed near by. David has turned his back on photography and the world because he never caught the true nature of his late girlfriend.
Meanwhile Alex (Andrew Scott), a gay Irish narcissist, regales us with tales of clubbing and casual sex via a digital camera. Paula (Sukie Smith), working in a CCTV control room, is more concerned with the missing girl than her own baby.
Stella’s hunger for fame is such that she resents the coverage generated by the abduction and has driven North in a rage. She draws David into her fantasy about being a drowned corpse shown on the news. Paula, rushing through the dark in her nightie, craves a sense of community that seems to occur only in a media-induced collective grief for someone else’s tragedy.
Initially intriguing, Evans’s schematic play fails to engage fully by overplaying its teasing out of information. His characters are skimpily drawn and act improbably to illustrate points, so that even a policeman (Mark Leadbetter) casually remarks that he has sex with his partner on the beat simply to relieve the loneliness of the job.
The cast, however, is splendid. Although Smith and Leadbetter have so little to work with, Scott brings warmth and humour to the self-regarding Alex, Blakley is manipulative and fragile as Stellar and Bonnar has a brooding stillness as David. The production brings some elemental reality, with water lashing a corner of the Royal Court’s studio space, but you seldom believe the characters actions.
Evans may be presenting warped souls of a media-led society, but they feel like inventions of the playwright. Would we believe it as a TV play? I doubt it.
Ian Johns THE TIMES 1/12/04
The last offering in the Royal Court’s Young Playwrights season begins with grainy CCTV footage of a young girl ambling along a pavement, and being approached by an unidentifiable adult male, who gently coaxes her into a parked car.
The title of Rob Evans’s play sounds innocuous enough, but dominating A Girl in a Car in a Man is the scenario that every parent dreads: child abduction.
We never get to see inside that car; instead Evans cuts between three very different storylines, each conducted against the grim backdrop of the unfolding news event.
A disillusioned Shopping Channel presenter called Stellar, drenched by a relentless downpour, seeks shelter in a cottage belonging to a solitary, unemployed David, mysteriously claiming to have crashed her car, and run someone over. In Edinburgh, Alex, a young gay man, left footloose by his cycling-obsessive boyfriend, heads out into the city in search of carnal excitement. Meanwhile the woman who works at the CCTV unit that captured the girl’s last few moments before being taken becomes fixated with the footage on one of the tapes, and, leaving her own baby crying, ventures forth into the night.
If the dialogue wasnt so accomplished, and the acting in Joe Hill-Gibbins’s impressively high-tech production wasnt so assured, the failing of Evans’s disjointed panorama would be more glaring than they are. There’s something too coldly schematic about the way the themes of surveillance and threatened violation link each separate component to the point where the poor abducted girl starts to seem a convenient theatrical leitmotif.
While the play may occasionally feel over-long and over-contrived, it’s never less than quietly gripping.
Evans clambers inside the heads of his perturbed and perturbing characters much as one might get inside a car and start building up a picture of the owner from the clues left in the glove compartment or under the seats: there’s something tantalisingly elusive about each of them.
The scenes between Claudie Blakley’s likeably impulsive, inquisitive Stellar and Mark Bonnar’s grieving, morosely introspective David shift beautifully between the promise of greater intimacy and perilous misunderstandings.
And Andrew Scott brilliantly sustains the plays discordant note of comedy as the narcissistic Alex, his witty, casually explicit monologue relayed via a handheld camcorder to a bank of video screens.
The shows technical virtuosity is to be admired, but its Evans’s perceptiveness and promise that supply the evenings most thrilling aspect.
Dominic Cavendish THE TELEGRAPH 1/12/04
In Orwell’s 1984 Winston Smith struggles to find a blind spot to conduct his rebellion out of sight of Big Brothers all-seeing eye. Rob Evans’s edgy drama, which takes place in the wake of a child abduction, is set in the here and now but it gives the sense of a world where we spend our time observing each other through the lens, where our image and sense of self and each other is filtered through the grainy pictures that seem more real than real life.
On the many CCTVs dotted around the theatre, the image of a little girl making her way home from school, being stopped by a man and trustingly slipping her hand into his as he leads her to a car is repeated again and again. It is the betrayal of that little hand that cuts you.
Directed very niftily by Joe Hill-Gibbins in the round, with much of the audience surrounding the action so you can never get away from it, Evans’s play depicts a world of intense loneliness through the fragmentary stories of several lost souls stranded in the dark and pelting rain. Its a world where despite all the cameras, a child can simply disappear; where the memory of the person you loved fades, where a woman on the shopping channel talks into a camera in an empty studio, where a gay narcissus is so busy watching the effect he has on others that he forgets to feel.
There is much about Evans’s narrative, and its interweaving of the stories of those who have claimed ownership of the child’s tragedy, that is reminiscent of Simon Stephens’s One Minute. But there is an imaginative verve and quiet intensity about Evans’s writing that is wholly original and which keeps you with it even when the drama is at its most elusive.
Lyn Gardner THE GUARDIAN, 1/12/04
We’re watching a CCTV camera capturing a girl getting into a car with a man. Now the tape is replayed and we look closer at the grainy footage: is the man her father or is he a stranger? Are the images sinister or benign?
Rob Evans’s play trails a disparate group of people on a rain-slicked night after the girl’s disappearance and deals with the gap between looking and seeing.
There’s cocky Alex (Andrew Scott), whos out cruising and loves being given the once-over, TV presenter Stella (Claudie Blakley), who suddenly cant face the camera, and photographer David (Mark Bonnar), who has stopped taking pictures. The piece, part of the Royal Court’s young writers season, never comes into perfect focus; some of the storylines are flimsy.
Still, director Joe Hill-Gibbins plays neat tricks with the audiences perspective, and there is flashbulb intensity to the writing and performances that makes this more than a series of artful snapshots.
Maxie Szalwinska THE METRO 2/12/04