David Hare is one of my favourite playwrights – intense, awkward dialogue between just two or three people and a discreet drama that comes from nothing more than conversations. They’re real and it’s this that makes them so powerful.
Oliver Lucas (Peter Davison) is our narrator, a successful physician who had an accident a few hours ago and now practises as a GP in rural Shropshire. Nadia Blye (Thusitha Jayasundera) is an ex-field journalist now lecturing at Yale. When they meet through Oliver’s son Philip (Nadia’s boyfriend) and open up to each other, sparks fly, although not in the way Philip believes.
The play moves between Yale and Oliver’s garden in Shrewsbury, enabling us to see Nadia in several different situations. Her character is complex, but Jayasundera perfectly captures her dry humour, passion for her work and profound opinions. Her relationship with Philip (Finlay Robertson) is believable but at times they seem more like siblings than lovers.
The chemistry between Jayasundera and Davison is wonderful to watch – it is awkward, yet mesmerising. There is no lust or romance here, just passion and strong beliefs.
Davison encapsulates the true British character of Oliver brilliantly, lazily opinionated but passionate in his way. Is he the villain in this play? I don’t think so, but it’s never clear if he is playing a psychological game, or just genuinely intrigued and impressed by his son’s girlfriend. It is actually Philip who comes across as the more disturbed – perhaps blamelessly considering his childhood, but it casts further doubt on his relationship with Nadia.
There are definite similarities between The Vertical Hour and Skylight, but these are what bring David Hare’s writing to life. The writing, acting and direction are all well-observed, making The Vertical Hour another triumph for Oliver Taheri Productions.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
The Vertical Hour is playing at the Park Theatre until 26 October 2014.