Alpha Beta at the Finborough
The Finborough Theatre prides itself on never performing anything that has been on a London stage in the past 25 years. Usually, that means their productions feel fresh and unchartered, but in the case of Ted Whitehead’s Alpha Beta all that”s made clear is that there”s perhaps a reason the show hasn’t been performed for over four decades.
That’s not to say the performance is a shambles; it is for the most part enjoyable, but the material it covers is nothing fresh or new and across three acts, it wears rather thin.
The play is an intimate look at the dissolving marriage of Norma and Frank Elliot, over the course of nine years. The action takes place entirely in their living room. Both Norma and Frank are toxic: Frank spends much of the play railing against the imagined cage of marriage, yearning for the freedom to “f*** a thousand women” while Norma, though a good mother, seems a little unhealthily obsessed with her husband. The play is devoted to their bickering with Frank pushing for a divorce or separation as Norma insists they stay together for the kids.
The performances are solid. Christian Roe is an excellent Frank, with just the right amount of grandiose narcissism and vulnerability and while Tracy Ifeachor’s performance as Norma seems a little weaker, much of that is down to Norma”s character on the whole being a little shaky.
The set is wonderfully designed, with the audience sitting either at the Elliot”s dinner table, sofa, or around the edges of their living room. The set suggests domesticity and is no doubt meant to inspire feelings of voyeurism, but this is where things begin to fall down. The interactions between Norma and Frank don”t feel natural. Their language is too theatrical and there”s not much chemistry between the two leads.
The script feels a little stale and it’s tiresome to watch the pair argue round and round in circles. There are a few brilliant lines though, mostly from Frank who more often than not and dishearteningly is made out to be the voice of reason.
Alpha Beta feels like an attempt at a modern take on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House but it unfortunately falls short and feels a little confused. Despite that, the innovative set design and relatively low ticket price make for an interesting night out.
Alpha Beta is on at the Finborough Theatre until 19th July 2015, for further information or to book visit here.