Odd Event Reviews... Inadmissible Evidence
Andy Simpkins reviews the Depths-Of-Self-Loathing, Karen Gillan-infused theatrical oddity that is 'Inadmissible Evidence' by John Osborne, the Donmar Warehouse theatre, London 26th October 2011
Okay Thespian fans, it's Grapple Time!! Or in other words, it's been a little while since one of my famous (or should that be infamous) reviews and so the time was nigh for me to put fingers to keyboard and regale you all with my observations of the play and the evening as a whole.
Now a few of you listeners to our podcast and visitors to the main site may have the slightest inkling that our Dear Leader; El Presidente or Adam to his friends and family, has a slight soupcon of an interest in the willowy Scottish lass that is Karen Gillan, she of Doctor Who fame and consort to Rory Williams. When Adam got wind that the apple of his eye was treading the boards up in the West End, it was an opportunity too good to miss. Armed with six tickets, a warm October evening found myself and Fake Crumbly, otherwise known as my wife Jane, Dunns Fake Karen and Real Keith, and Adam enduring the waking nightmare that is Southern trains up to London Victoria.
Upon being disgorged at Victoria, it was down into the sweltering depths of the London Underground. After a short journey, we made a slight detour to a bookstore in the oddly named Cecil Street where we would meet up with another of our party, Ian McArdell; longtime friend of Adam and the Dunns, and for Adam to purchase a signed copy of a book that he had been after.
Before too long and after dodging the suicidal London black taxi cab drivers, we found ourselves outside the Donmar Warehouse.
For those among you who have been up to London's West End, the Donmar Warehouse is something of a low-key place. Bereft of the opulent fixtures and decorations of many a London theatre, it is very up to date and the actual theatre and stage area is surprisingly intimate, only holding a maximum of 250 people. The actual stage area has no gap separating it from the front seats of the stalls, which allows for more of an interaction between the actors and the audience.
After having a quick drink in the bar and purchasing a programme in the foyer, we took our places in the front seats of the circle and looked down upon the stage.
Looking at the stage was like looking at the main protagonists life. Taking centre stage was a cluttered and paper-strewn desk with an angle-poise lamp in one corner and all around the periphery of the stage and on the floor were legal documents and ledgers placed in a state of disarray. Towards the back of the stage were a couple of moth-eaten easy chairs and some filing cabinets. Behind them was a windowed partition leading into a smaller office area containing a couple of desks an a switchboard. Overall, the office had the look of seeing better days and an air of general neglect.
While the lights were up, I happened to notice what seemed to be a couple of figures on the stage but covered with dust sheets and completely motionless, one seated in an easy chair on the right of the stage and one apparently seated on top of a filing cabinet on the other side of the stage. I pointed this out to Fake Crumbly and the fact that I could see a pair of shoes peeking out from under the dustsheet.
My suspicions were proved correct when the house lights went down and our 'hero' of the piece strode out onto the stage and launched into the first of many bilious monologues.
Bitterly complaining that he could feel his stress was rising in his throat like marbles to press against his neck and saying that after a night of drinking whisky, his eyelids were like like oyster shells in their difficulty to open. This point he proved graphically by going up to a woman in the front row and inviting her to feel his throat and the perceived marbles lodged there. He is then shaken out of his reverie as the two dustsheet-clad figures explode to life.
The first is dressed as a high court judge, resplendent in wig, red gown and a gavel which he is waving around enthusiastically, the second is dressed as a prosecuting barrister, wearing a black robe and wig. However, the scene is somewhat surreal as the judge is still seated on top of the filing cabinet and the barrister casually lounges back in a chair and lights a cigarette.
The 'judge' launches into a lengthy tirade about how William Maitland has committed the crime of 'irredeemable mediocrity' and presumably has been tried and been found guilty without proving his innocence first. The events that follow are a prelude to what just happened...
The house lights dim momentarily and when they rise, the judge and the barrister are gone and it is a busy day in the office. Maitland and his partner in the business; Hudson, are working away but there is a palpable air of tension present. Maitland is portraying himself as both a bully and a victim and he has plenty of opportunities to vent his spleen at Hudson and at Jones, the office junior, for the declining number of cases they are getting.
Realising it is time to take his three little white pills, he bellows into the back office and a few moments later, Adams willowy vision of loveliness hoves into view, clutching a glass of water. It transpires that Shirley and Maitland had been having trysts in his office but Shirley was realising that they were more to slake Maitlands thirst for quick, easy and emotionless sex. She is beginning to realise this and it is making her uneasy. this is confirmed where Maitland rounds on her and starts mocking her Scottish accent.
All the while, Maitland is complaining that Hudson is spending too much time in chambers to be of any real help to him and he has an inkling that Hudson is being tempted away by an offer of a job from another law firm. When Maitland questioned Hudson about this, he would just say that he was considering their offer and would let him know.
It is not too long before Maitlands roving eye alights on the next potential conquest, Joy recently started at the law firm as a telephonist and switchboard operator. She could best be described as 'flighty' and possesses something of a liberal and free and easy personality. She is obviously attracted to Maitland and wants to become better acquainted with him.
It is at this point that Hudson returns from chambers to find Maitland in an agitated state. He obviously realises that Hudson is on the verge of leaving and pleads with him to stay. Again he can only offer the line that he is considering. However, it is clear to see by the expression on Hudsons face that he has made his mind up.
Hudson is not the only one who is thinking of leaving. Shirley has some news to tell him. She tells him that she is pregnant by her boyfriend and wants to hand in her notice. Maitland is not above wheedling and pleading in order to get his own way but despite his best efforts, she has made her mind up and during an angry and emotional scene, a clearly distraught Shirley walks out, to be closely followed by Hudson.
It is clear to see that the seeds of Maitlands self-destruction have been planted and are starting to grow....
The second half begins with Maitland fast asleep in an easy chair. A half empty bottle of scotch lies at his feet. Joy has long since left the office after their assignation and he on his own. He wakes up slowly from his whisky-induced slumber but then hurriedly runs into the back office to be sick.
A few moments later, he walks back in, dabbing at his mouth. After fumbling around for three more of his pills and washing down with more scotch, he is suddenly overcome by pangs of loneliness and wanting contact with the human race. He calls his wife but she does not really want to talk to him as she is busy with her daughter. Slamming down the phone, he sits brooding for a while and then dials again and speaks to his mistress Liz. Trying to assuage the stabs of guilt he is feeling at his shameless treatment of himself and those around him, he implores her to drop by the office sometime so they can discuss going away on their weekend break. She says that she will try and partially mollified, he hangs up the phone.
Realising that he has been asleep in the office all night, he pulls himself together as Hudson walks in the office. Hudson tells him that he has made a decision and he is accepting the position offered by the rival company. Rounding on him angrily, Maitland denounces him bitterly and calls him a judas before Hudson can make his exit.
Grimacing in pain, he sits down in his chair only for Joy to announce over the intercom that Mrs. Garnsey has turned up for her appointment. She is shown in and seated opposite Maitland, she starts to discuss with him the facts of her divorce case against her husband for his alleged infidelities.
Listening to her as she recited her litany of her husbands perceived misdeeds, he realises how futile it all is and launches into a monologue which, by a clever piece of writing, runs alongside her script, and mirrored what he had realised all along; that his life was as vacuous and empty as the female clients he was interviewing this afternoon.
One of the final nails in the coffin of his self-damnation was the fact that his daughter was waiting in the adjoining office. Joy timidly ushered her in and hurried out. Maitlands daughter; Jane, sat down in the chair and instead of enjoying a father-daughter chat, is given the full blast of his self-pitying and spite. Subjected to withering spite and and a speech that bordered on the hysterical where he condemns and castigates the youth of today for the ease at which they can get anything,whether it is a job, money or a sexual partner to their seemingly hollow values that they hold so dear. Frightened by the transformation of her father from a loving parent into a spittle-flecked personification of a middle-aged mans rantings, she is half-dragged by her father and half-runs to the office door to escape the ranting, whining ogre that he has become. Clearly in a state of shock at what her father has said to her and escorted out by an angry Joy, they make their way out of the office, never to return
Scarcely believing what he has done, he can only slump down in his chair. However, the coup de grace that he had been half expecting finally turns up.
The office door opens and a tall and elegant woman walks in and looks at him reproachfully. It is his mistress Liz, come to see how he is after his emotional phone call. Scarcely believing what she is seeing sitting slouched at the desk, she sorrowfully tells him that she cannot go on their planned three day romantic break and says that perhaps it is best if they stop seeing each other. His behaviour has driven away the last person he could turn to and he can only watch mutely as she turns away and walks out of the office and out of his life.
The final scene is of Maitland, alone, bitter and dejected. His final words to the audience were a resigned:
"I think I'll sit here for a while...".
With that, the single spotlight that illuminates him fades to nothing.....
What can I say except I tip my hat to the cast. The supporting cast all did sterling work, Daniel Ryan who plays Hudson is a veteran of stage and screen and has an impressive history, especially where it comes to Shakespeare. Serena Evans as Mrs.Garnsey has an impressive list of TV and theatre credits under her belt. The apple of El Presidentes eye, Karen Gillan, is making a name for herself outside of Doctor Who but the lions share of the script and the pivotal character of Bill Maitland is all down to Douglas Hodge.
To say that he had a small mountain of a script to learn and get into the right mindset for Maitlands lengthy monologues is an understatement. He has literally made the role his own and it is a credit to his acting skills that he can become Bill Maitland and continually turn on an emotional sixpence throughout the play, cutting a figure that veers between being pathetic, tragic and loathsome.
Watching the play was somewhat akin to looking into the open wound of John Osbornes soul. His earlier play 'Look Back In Anger' catalogued the disintegration of his first marriage and 'Inadmissible Evidence' is very much a wander through the darker corners of his mind and dredging up the bilge of self-loathing and petty spite that can be directed either towards other people or ourselves. I suppose John Osbourne could have been classed as one of the 'angry young men' of British theatre as his plays were very much a rant against the staid settings of Britain in the late 1950's and early '60's as well as allegorical tales based on his own life.
The play is very much a scatter-gun display of bile and venom that poisons us and leaks out to corrode other people and this was very much on display in the acts of petty callousness that Bill Maitland directed towards himself and others, especially Shirley, in the mocking of her soft Scottish accent and the fact that she was pregnant by her boyfriend and wanted to hand in her notice. The fact that she and Maitland had been having trysts in his office made no difference to him. They were just couplings made in order to to try and put an emotional salve over the sores on his conscience. In the end, all that happened were just events that helped to isolate him from all those who gravitated towards him. As the lights dimmed for the last time, he cut both a pathetic and tragic figure as he bitterly realised that he was the architect of his own downfall and damnation.
Not the easiest of plays to watch or review as it can strike a responsive chord in a lot of people. There are times when we feel that the world is brutal and antagonistic and we just want to lash out and hurt it but Maitland took that to the nth degree and not just railed against the futility and stupidity that seems to reign in the world but against what he perceived to be his fruitless and poisoned existence.
Unfortunately, by the time this review goes up on the site, the play will have finished its run on the 26th November but, if you get the chance and there are other productions playing near to where you live, go and see it. John Osborne may have had a very troubled life and it reflects in his work, but for thought-provoking theatre, you can't go far wrong.