Alys, Always at the Bridge Theatre
Watching fame and glamour pass by while real talent and kindness go unnoticed: the story of Frances (Joanne Froggatt) is the same of many, or in fact the great majority of people – basically, all the ordinary crowd. A car crash occurs during a miserable return journey to London, and the unsatisfied sub-editor of The Questionnaire happens to be introduced to the Kytes, a wealthy family whose head, Laurence (Robert Glenister), is a renowned author.
The play follows the rocketing social climb of Frances – in the office, in her relationships, in upgraded heavenly holidays. Is the protagonist a cold, manipulative mind or a woman justly vindicating the positions and benefits she deserves from life?
The audience assists in the seamless transformation of the subject from a hectic and slightly anxious worker to an unwavering fox. In its simplicity, the plot is intriguing. For a thriller, however, the script lacks that extra gripping factor that holds the attention and the breath of theatregoers. The dialogues could have been tightened in some places so as to shorten the running time, but as it is, after the first part the story risks recounting a series of foreseeable sequences.
What really helps to keep up the pace are the scattered jokes. Mocking, odd references – and essentially, almost all the lines of Sylvestra Le Touzel – add just the right touch of humour.
With her head in the clouds and her childlike behaviour, Leah Gayer is a delight to watch. She makes her Polly a convincing character, spoiled and very naive. Froggatt’s performance is driven, although at times quite restrained by the two-dimensional part, especially when impersonating the narrator of the story within the story. However, She certainly gets the credit for leading the play, which succeeds in its aim to give the impression of a one-woman-show.
Particular praise is due to the set designer, Bob Crowley, for the moving staging which shifts and overlaps smoothly, both at the front of the space and in the background. The semi-transparent wall – which first divides the scene in two, then hides in the dark behind the action – stands up as the perfect canvas for ambient projections by Luke Halls.
Alys, Always turns out to be a light drama. The story catches some empathetic notes as it puts the spotlight on the ever-unresolved dilemmas of fame, the invisibility of the good, an all-too-common lack of recognition and our lust for success.
Photo: Helen Maybanks
Alys, Always is at the Bridge Theatre from 25th February until 30th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.