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Six Degrees of Separation

Published Monday 10 May 2004 at 11:10 by Lew Baxter

The ease of the sublime con merchant in outwitting the slickly smart ensures that John Guare’s adaptation of this true story both titillates and chills.

Twenty years ago when David Hampton cleverly persuaded Manhattan’s rich - and white - elite that he was the son of actor Sidney Poitier, they scrambled to share in that proxy celebrity.

It provided Guare with a terrific template to explore the glue of relationships and explore the fascinating theory that six levels of connection might link us all.

That the play - given a fresh, mellow touch by director Michael Buffong - continues to delight demonstrates how vulnerable are society’s mores.

While clearly encouraging an enthusiastic cast to wallow in the absurdity, Buffong stresses the smug complacency of the protagonists. Philip Bretherton as the archly sophisticated, confident art dealer Flanders Kittredge is a breeze, matched by Lisa Eichhorn as his blissfully frivolous socialite wife Ouisa.

Yet it is O-T Fagbenle as the gloriously loquacious lounge lizard Paul Poitier who scoops the laurels. The role is pivotal in shaping the audience’s delicious anticipation of the victims’ shocked discovery and outrage at the artfully woven deceit.

He cuts a swathe through most scenes, from his first appearance as the scallywag rent boy who worms his way into the minds and saloons of the famously wealthy by absorbing knowledge from one of their young.

It is a diverting and riveting production, where director Buffong cleverly uses the round almost like a revolving Chinese banqueting table, with each delicious course swivelling past us as the plot unfolds.

Production information

Royal Exchange, Manchester, April 14-May 8

John Guare
Michael Buffong
Royal Exchange
Cast includes:
Lisa Eichhorn, Philip Bretherton, Paul Greenwood, O-T Fagbenle
Running time:
1hr 35mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014