A boldly artistic take on Peter Gill’s Small Change makes for a challenging but rewarding watch at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre
“Things happened that couldn’t be changed”
Perhaps appropriately for the fractured narrative of this memory play, I don’t remember that much about the 2008 Donmar Warehouse production of Peter Gill’s Small Change, other than it starring a pre-Hollywood Avenue Q-era Luke Evans. So Both Barrels Theatre’s new revival at the Omnibus Theatre offers the ideal opportunity to let life reflect art as we all try and piece together memories of the past.
With its fragmented style, Small Change is undoubtedly a challenging play to watch as Cardiff man Gerard looks to resolve the pain of the present by delving into the mysteries of his past. Its not an easy route though, as we dig into his relationship with his mother, the boy next door and his mother in turn too. Altogether, a portrait of mid-20th century working-class masculinity in crisis fitfully comes into view, like a constantly twisting kaleidoscope.
Director George Richmond-Scott tackles the enigma of the play with a boldly artistic vision, perhaps sacrificing a little of that clarity that is so hard to come by but gaining a vibrant theatricality that is playful and passionate. Liam Bunster’s set design looks like a set of girders but acts like building blocks as they facilitate quick shifts in scenes, a door becomes a pond becomes a hiding place becomes a seafront to play along.
And movement director Rachel Wise encourages the kind of physical language that tracks the loss of fearlessness as we move into adulthood, when the grim realities of work, of lost love, of the drudgery of life takes over. It’s a striking aesthetic that slightly overplays its hand in an overlong first half but pays rich reward after the interval when the homoerotic undercurrents breach the surface, even if only briefly.
Richmond-Scott’s company of four all take their moments to shine. The ever-endearing Andy Rush is achingly good as the introspective Gerard and shares a desperate and deep connection with Toby Gordon’s Vincent, especially as their older selves. And Sioned Jones and Tameka Mortimer as their respective mothers anchor them somewhere meaningful, as they capture a troubling ambivalence when it comes to their motherly love.