Review: 4**** The Weatherman – Park Theatre 200 #TheWeatherman @parktheatre

Tweetingit: 4* A harrowing story of good men turning bad at the hands of an unscrupulous landlord. Human trafficking could never be pleasant viewing; but it is something we ignore at our peril.

We usually see theatre as a brief escape from life’s routine and stark reality. But just occasionally, it rips us from our comfort zone and portrays life as it happens. The Park Theatre never shirks a challenge and is pitching itself as the new Royal Court with its own brand of gritty drama.

Weatherman tells the story of decent men trapped in a circle they can’t square. O’Rourke (Alec Newman) and Beezer (Mark Hadfield) are drifters waiting for their turn in life’s lottery. They share a flat together and landlord Dollar (David Schaal) wants them to take care of someone. In return, their rent will be paid for six months plus £200 per week to cover expenses. The scales come crashing down when they realise ‘someone’ is a 12 year old Romanian girl called Mara (Niamh James). They are under strict instructions to care for her in their flat. The only time she leaves is when Dollar has a job for her. Fellow tenant Turkey (Cyril Nri) is co-opted to drive Mara to and from jobs.

O’Rourke and Beezer have their own reasons for being grateful to Dollar; both are trapped by a favour they can never fully repay. Turkey has reservations but is receiving the same remuneration; so has no problem looking the other way. The trio are effectively jailors to Mara. But it soon becomes apparent they are all prisoners; controlled by the sinister, manipulative Dollar.

What gives this play such impact is that someone somewhere is going through the same experience as Mara. As O’Rourke so rightly points out you’ve worked life out a lot sooner than you needed to. A child forced to live in an adult world that cares nothing for her welfare.

It’s happening as you read this review and should be disturbed by it. It’s easy to look away, but we need to understand the reality that life throws at us. An authentically sparse set creates a bleak landscape and dynamic sound system heightens the tension; a key turning in the lock sounds frightening and intimidating. Writer Eugene O’Hare comes up with a sharp and edgy script that continually hits the target. A brilliant cast excel in a play that educates rather than entertains. Whilst there were superlative performances all around, David Schaal delivered a blistering portrayal of a character you would cross the road to avoid. Make no mistake, this is powerful stuff but you need to be in the right mind-set to appreciate its quality.

Writer: Eugene O’Hare

Director: Alice Hamilton

Producers: Park Theatre in association with Anthology Theatre, Elaine Davidson Productions and Featuristic Stage.

Box Office: 020 7870 6876

Booking Link: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-weatherman

Booking Until: 14 September 2019

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