In the same way that the Finborough Theatre itself punches well above its weight in the size-to-quality ratio, An Incident At The Border successfully tackles rather a lot of humanity’s foibles in quite a short space of time.
Originally a short piece designed to fit into a lunch time, the now extended version of this play by Kieran Lynn is set in an unnamed country on the day of its independence from a neighbouring land. Olivia (Florence Hall) and Arthur (Tom Bennett) find their romantic afternoon in the park takes an unexpected turn when the disputed new border between these nations is redrawn right through the centre of the bench on which they sit. The border, which is being delineated in red-and-white striped parcel tape by newly appointed border guard Reiver (Marc Pickering), leaves Arthur stranded on the wrong side of the lines, with no processes for repatriation having yet been put into place by Reiver’s bureaucrat superiors.
The line between Olivia and Arthur - as they stand inches apart, but in separate countries - becomes both a physical and metaphorical border, giving rise to each of them having to decide which of their own lines they are prepared to cross for one another and how much they are prepared to risk in the process.
Tom Bennett delivers character-comedy gold as Arthur, and Bruce Guthrie’s clean and simple direction of Lynn’s script also deliver him some of the finest moments in the show. His unwittingly frank assessment of Olivia’s conversations about her own “emotional well-being” is delivered with a bewildered and tongue-tied resignation, and his happy-go-lucky, duck-loving creation is a joy to watch throughout.
Florence Hall is a feisty Olivia, who is, at times, rather too forthright to make Arthur’s decision whether or not to cross back over the line all that hard to make. However, her strength of will and desire to become more “involved” are a great foil to Arthur’s apathy and Reiver’s idiocy and there are some fascinating moments between Olivia and Arthur as the plot develops beyond just the tape line and forces them to consider their feelings for one another and their own ideologies.
Marc Pickering as the newly appointed border guard delivers another strong performance, balancing the vulnerability of Reiver with the newly-found sense of importance that comes with his uniform and radio. From being the buffoon of the piece early on, there are some genuine and poignant moments of pathos as his character tries to break free and make a stand.
This play is an insightful comment on group-think, the so called political and non-political classes and the ways in which we all draw our own boundaries through life, and it is exceptionally well handled in Bruce Guthrie’s production.
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By Jamie Read @VoiceTeacherUK
Sun, Mon + Tues from 22nd July to 7th Aug 2012
Finborough Theatre, London, SW10.