Review: An Intervention, Watford Palace

“I didn’t – 
I never – 
You would.
‘I would’.’”

Is it OK for one country to intercede in the affairs of another, even with the most liberal of intentions? If your best friend starts dating someone who you think is eminently unsuitable, is the best thing to do to tell them? A Paines Plough co-production, Mike Bartlett’s new play (and boy is he cranking them out) conflates these two questions to look at the varied nature of friendship and how it changes in response to politics, pressures and the passing of time. 

An Intervention is a two-hander, the characters simply named A and B, reflecting the universality of the issues at hand. Here, A is played with real gusto by Rachael Stirling, vibrantly passionate in the things she believes in (the anti-war movement for one) and the right to keep a full drink in her hand. John Hollingworth’s B on the other hand, is much more reserved, pragmatic in his outlook and it is he whose relationship (with the unseen Hannah) changes so much.

James Grieve’s production plays out the five scenes of the play like an extended comedy routine. Some of the scenes are set in front of the plush red velvet curtains of the Watford Palace, others use the ingenious space of Lucy Osborne’s design, but all of them chart the decline in the closeness of this pair, as their mutual dependency gets twisted in the thin line between love and hate, between life worth living and the desperation of loneliness.

Stirling and Hollingworth are brilliant together, the ever-changing contours of their interdependency beautifully portrayed as the play winds to its visually stunning and emotionally compelling climax, reminding us that whilst old friends may seem like they’ll always be there, they need nurturing just as much as the rest of us. Bartlett’s customary acuity in exploding the way we relate to each other is as perfectly conceptualised as ever, he remains one of our most exciting young playwrights. 

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Kevin Cummins

Booking until 3rd May

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