views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

No Quarter
13th July 2016
Network Theatre

★★★★☆

Ryan Whittle and Miranda Wilson as Robin and Lily

Photography © Jamie Scott-Smith

When Oliver (George Watkins) finds his brother, Robin (Ryan Whittle) at home during term-time, he begins to suspect all is not well. However, Robin has rather more serious secrets to hide than merely bunking off from university. Oliver and Robin's mum, Lily (Miranda Wilson) has just about had enough of being stuck in a care home and she's looking to get out. At any cost. Polly Stenham's No Quarter begins with some upsetting, hard-hitting scenes and doesn't get any less gritty over the course of the 90 minutes.

The first third of the play focuses on Lily's mental decline with the remainder dealing with Robin's subsequent derailment and his desperate attempt to hold onto the family home. Nouveau pauvre or not, there's a distinct sense of privilege running through the entire script and I suppose this may make No Quarter hard to relate to for some people. However, I think Oliver's frustration at being forced to be the 'responsible' sibling and the tragedy of Lily's poor mental health are very universal scenarios which transcend class.

Whittle makes for a gloriously baffling lead as Robin. There's something curiously magnetic about his protagonist's persona, we find ourselves as inexplicably drawn to him as the other characters. His dynamic with siblings Arlo (Freddie Thorp) and Scout (Evie Killip) straddles a line between disturbing and confusing. Then there's Tommy (Simon Mokhele), who Robin seems to have actively picked up, and young neighbour Coby (Rosalie Kosky), who by her own admission is besotted with him, her young age making her open up her heart so freely. Even a cousin, Esme (Chloe Anna Wilcox) turns up out of nowhere to check on him.

So many people are invested in Robin however ultimately he's just too narcissistic and detached to truly reciprocate anyone's feelings. Other than Lily, you wonder if he's ever properly cared for anyone. He's inherently hedonistic and running scared, a dangerous and yet enthralling combination. Some of the supporting cast aren't quite up there with Whittle, Wilson and Watkins. You do though have to bear in mind that one of the minor characters was recast hurriedly in this play only a week before curtain up and the overall quality of the production is nonetheless very high.

What always strikes me is despite only graduating two years go, Manton has a very recognisable style, more so than plenty of more established directors. He seems to seek out the sort of stories with hidden depths to them, taking delight in teasing out the intricacies of the plot and presenting characters to us who may be so far removed from the everyman and yet feel so very genuine. There's a certain moodiness with the lighting and precision with his staging that reveals his hand in this production.

No Quarter is a stunning and powerful piece of theatre, with some exceptional acting. Watching this gorgeous yet curious piece at Network Theatre feels like falling down the rabbit hole - an experience not to be missed.

No Quarter opened on 13th July and runs until 16th July 2016 at Network Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo (Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee)



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