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Stuart King

Review: SITTING at The Arcola Theatre

Sitting - Arcola Theatre Following a sold-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Katherine Parkinson’s debut play SITTING has just opened at the Arcola Theatre.

Set entirely in John’s artist studio, the play’s three sitters - Mary, Luke and Cassandra chat about themselves, their backgrounds and significant moments in their ordinary lives as progress on their portraits continues. Each has a reason for being there and all remain on stage throughout the play, but their moments clearly existed at different times and never overlap - a theatrical device which works surprisingly effectively here. Only at the end do we as the audience, learn of their significance and connection to one another.

So, the burning question - what of Ms Parkinson’s ability with the pen? We know her from our TV screens as a comedic actress of skill and she is currently playing to packed houses at the National in “Home, I’m Darling”, but can she write? Well, by any measure of reckoning, this first effort, imbued as it is with strong, character-driven observational humour, delivers beautifully. Does the play constitute a deeply profound and insightful commentary on humanity and societal ills? No. Does it offer a gently realised and at times moving and often funny slice of human nature, its vulnerabilities and motivations? Absolutely. A few slightly cloudy areas and the need for a tighter finish for one of the characters, are minor gripes when in the main, the audience is thoroughly engaged, attentive and entertained.

Hayley Jayne Standing’s Mary is warm and wistful in that slightly disappointed hippy way. Poppy Farrell captures the irritating essence of a fanciful young woman deprived of attention and seeking approval. But it is Mark Weinman’s unworldly and blokey Luke who delivers the most sweetly nuanced and humorous characterisation where both physical and verbal aspects are in complete harmony.

Sarah Bedi has directed her trio with minimal fuss on a simply realised set by Susannah Henry, which boasts a colourful and sophisticated twist when the lights come up at the end.