Review: Small Change

By John Nathan, May 8, 2008

Donmar Warehouse, London WC2

Four chairs and four actors are the main ingredients in Peter Gill’s beautifully acted revival of his own 1976 play. Gill’s protagonists are two working-class Cardiff boys (Matt Ryan and Luke Evans) and their mothers (Sue Johnston and Lindsay Coulson).

The picture painted is one of a post-war community where fathers are absent and mothers live in unfulfilled terrace-housed loneliness with their children.

Coulson’s Mrs Driscol confesses the guilt she feels for loving her abusive husband but not her children. Johnston’s stoic Mrs Harte is her emotionally repressed neighbour and confidant.

But the defining relationship in Gill’s play is between the two sons. Matt Ryan’s Gerard is the sensitive, self analysing foil to Luke Evans’s down-to-earth tough-nut Vincent. Each tells his version of the relationship from an adult point of view. And it is in the telling that Gill’s lyrical and poetic play makes its mark.

The advancement from boyhood through adolescence is suggested by Gill’s actors with a remarkable fluidity. Teenage boredom is portrayed physically with a petulant flounce, and advancing maturity by their increasingly sophisticated language.

The story that emerges between the two boys is one of unrequited love, or at least of two different kinds of love. But while Gill’s production is hugely impressive and boasts four quite beautiful performances, it is an evening almost devoid of tension.

Tel: 0870 060 6624

Last updated: 11:18am, May 20 2008