Distance review at Park Theatre, London – ’emotionally compelling’
Alex McSweeney’s Distance ties in with a new initiative at the Park in conjunction with MIND to introduce rehearsal practices to protect performers’ mental health.
Steven is travelling by train to a job interview when he bumps into an old colleague Alan. Initially awkward, Alan is keen to catch up with Steven on the journey but in the process, Steven reveals snippets of his complex and troubled inner life.
Alex McSweeney’s dense, dramatic play exposes fragments of Steven’s recent past, including his separation from his wife to his descent into alcoholism and depression. Developed as part of the Park’s Script Accelerator programme, McSweeney’s fraught yet deftly structured play captures the sense of isolation felt by Steven as his life spirals out of control.
Simon Pittman’s direction and Bethany Wells’ ingenious set design are very much part of McSweeney’s storytelling process. The constant shifting of the set mirrors the unsettling state of Steven’s mental health, while Pittman’s direction fuses elements of physical theatre with punchy realism to devastating effect. Humour erupts at precisely the right moment in the guise of fare-dodger and philosopher the Duke – an effective Richard Corgan – whose casual approach to life, love and his own masculinity fascinates Steven.
Adam Burton captures the vulnerability of Steven, a man who desperately needs help, but has absolutely no idea how to either ask for it or accept it. It’s a vicious circle, coherently drawn out through Burton’s emotionally compelling performance.