Review: Yours For The Asking at The Orange Tree
Yours for the Asking (Picture credit, Robert Day)
Yours For The Asking – a social tragedy set in 1970s Madrid that has uncanny parallels today, writes Con Crowley
Gazing around my fellow Orange Tree audience, it occurs to me what an aging lot we are. Assembled here to see Sam Walters’ latest offering – a play written in the early seventies by Spain’s leading female playwright Anna Diosdado.
Set in the final throws of General Franco’s repressive regime, which by then had lasted almost 40 years, Yours For The Asking centres on characters of similar age to what most of the audience would have been then.
It is a love affair between Juan, a seemingly lily-livered, cynical magazine journalist, played by Steven Elder and attractive model Susi, played by Mia Austen, who he has been sent to interview, after she gets caught up in a perfume advertising campaign that backfires on her and turns her life into a living hell.
This is a bleak play, a tragedy of Shakespearean proportion, charged with psychological drama where despair and hopelessness show no bounds. It deals with feelings of entrapment and powerlessness in a world where both commercial and state regime rule and manipulate “the man in the street.”
Faultless performances from the small cast of four with Elder’s whimpering portrayal of Juan empathizing with Mere Austen’s role as the bewildered beauty contemplating suicide. David Antrobus does convincing multi-performances as, coroner, neighbour, porter, magazine editor and model agent, while Rebecca Pownall plays Juan’s long-term girlfriend Celia.
Sam Walters is well known for scouring the globe to bring us original, provocative theatre and this is no exception. A UK premier of an acclaimed foreign play that kicks off an interesting international season at the Orange Tree.
But I couldn’t help wondering whether this audience, comfortable in their skins and at a time of life when such worries are a mere reflection on what a younger generation may feel, still had the stamina for it.
This is not an easy evening’s entertainment. It is challenging theatre that requires concentration- a complicated plot peppered with cynicism for light relief.
It is a play for a generation in tune with the disenchanted who want a catalyst to feed their angst and frustration at an uncomfortable economic and social world that wasn’t of their making and out of their control. In short it has as much to say today as it did then.
So if you have the mental fortitude and want proof that history really teaches us very little, take yourself to Yours For The Asking. And if at any time you do find it becomes a little too heavy going you can always distract yourself with the posters of Susi’s curvaceous body, which adorn the Orange Tree’s auditorium. But don’t miss the twist at the end!
Yours For The Asking is at The Orange Tree, Richmond until October 6th. Mon-Sat 7.45pm. Matinees Sat & Thurs 3pm and 2.30pm. Tickets £11.50 to £22.50 concessions £2 off. £5 under-25 Thurs eve. Box Office: 020 8940 3633.