WRITER William Boyd came to the theatre late in his illustrious career as a novelist and scriptwriter for the big and small screens, and thank goodness he made the move.
His play The Argument, first seen in Hampstead Theatre’s studio in 2016, seems at first to be a mixture of early Ayckbourn and Yasmina Reza – Relatively Speaking meets God of Carnage.
In Christopher Luscombe’s new version for Bath Theatre Royal’s summer season, played on Simon Higlett’s cleverly versatile set, Meredith and Pip arrive home to their trendy flat from an evening at the cinema. He’s had a good time and enjoyed the film. She thinks it was time wasted, and picks holes in the plot, which she feels invalidate the story. An argument starts.
Next up Meredith is at her parents’ house, arguing with her mother, Chloe. Pip moves, and in his new run- down flat begins to argue with his best friend Tony. Chloe and her consultant husband Frank argue about their children. Meredith argues with her friend Jane about Pip. Jane and Tony argue about Jane’s (hilarious and oh-so-recognisable) upward inflections.
Meredith and Pip make up. The phone rings…..
In these fast moving scenes, lasting 75 minutes without an interval, modern life is unravelled, human nature flayed and me-me-me psychology wittily exposed in all its uncomprehending excesses.
The packed Bath audience did its traditional gasp at some of the language, specially as delivered by such beautifully spoken people!
Alice Orr-Ewing is the infuriatingly confident Meredith with Simon Harrison (best known as bad cop Ronnie Box in Endeavour) as Pip, the ever-delightful Felicity Kendall as Chloe, with Rupert Vansittart as Frank, Esh Alladi as Tony and Sarah Earnshaw making the very most of Jane.
The Argument is what many modern audiences want of a play – clever, entertaining, brief and just a bit thought-provoking. It runs until 24th August.
Photographs by Manuel Harlan