Review: Precious Little Talent – Trafalgar Studios ****

Precious Little Talent, however, manages to emulate the poignancy of the Christmas spirit without forcing the festive feeling of the winter season.

The revival of Ella Hickson’s second play – a storming success in Edinburgh last year, hot on the heels of her first critically-acclaimed play, Eight – at the Trafalgar Studios, provides an intimate setting in which this three-hander effortlessly and innovatively explores the challenges created by old age, complex family relations, the drive of ambition, and the misconstrued sexual attraction of youth.

The play intermingles both naturalistic and surreal styles in order to tell its story; characters come out of scenes to speak directly to the audience, enlightening us as to their point of view on the action – which, hilariously, may entirely contradict another character’s perspective, as we later discover. The use of monologue and choreographed movement are also placed effectively to explore the characters’ inner thoughts and personal traumas. The tedium of a family game of trivial pursuit, for example, highlights the realities of early on-set dementia with heartbreaking accuracy, and is just one of the many moments in this production where the well-crafted writing dominates the stage, revealing through the text an aging father who is lost for words.

Scene changes are slick, choreographed with subtle twists and turns as if to emulate the changing directions of the characters’ lives

The space, whilst snug, is used in a variety of ways, and lighting is employed to draw the audience’s attention and direct the action. Neon strips flash and flicker to give, along with hectic sound effects, a realistic representation of the New York skyline, and scene changes are slick, choreographed with subtle twists and turns as if to emulate the changing directions of the characters’ lives.

The acting is simply superb; Ian Gelder as the flailing father George captures the internal struggle and frustration faced when those minor tasks, previously taken for granted, become insurmountable; Olivia Hallinan as George’s estranged daughter Joey perfectly places her British cynicism and confusion felt, both with her father’s odd behaviour and her own shattered ideals; and Anthony Welsh as the young, idealistic, frisky Sam portrays the dreams of youth with a natural – and infectious – positivity. The three bring an energy to the writing which, given its occasionally poetic descriptions, could potentially err towards the sentimental.

James Dacre’s craftily-directed production of Precious Little Talent should not be missed, given, ironically, the sheer wealth of talent on display.

– Amy Stow

**** (4 stars)
Runs until 30th April 2011
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