I was looking forward to seeing this new play by Wallace Shawn but ended up being mightily disappointed. The start is promising enough with theatre playwright turned TV script writer, Robert (Josh Hamilton), delivering a wry and witty monologue on his career and setting the scene for what is about to enfold. The problem is with the enfolding. It leaves the audience at a loss as to what Wallace Shawn is actually getting at. Realistic it ‘aint, but it isn’t obviously fantasy either. It falls somewhere between the two, but told in such a monotonous way that any discourse afterwards as to what Shawn actually does mean is deemed futile.
The Talk House of the title is a club where Robert and several of his old theatrical work colleagues have arranged to meet for a reunion ten years after they were all involved in one of his plays. This genteel, old-fashioned dining club, slightly faded at the edges and somewhat drab and sinister is very well realised by the The Quay Brothers. Nellie (Anna Calder-Marshall), the original hostess has faded along with her workplace and when we come across Dick, an ageing actor, hiding away in a corner, the “something nasty in the woodshed” atmosphere heightens. He is sporting various facial bruises, the result of a vicious assault by his friends, but it is never explained why he has become a target. As everyone else assembles and begins to open up as to what they’ve been doing in the interim years, it becomes clear that the world we’ve entered is a very odd one indeed. But is it a parody of what we’re enduring now thanks to global terrorism, is it set sometime in the future, is it a criticism of American/our government policy or just a chance to spout forth on the eventual demise of the acting profession? I really have no idea and, such is the tiresome way in which the cast are made to spill the beans about how they now make a living (carrying out targeted killings on those who mean the country harm) I really don’t care.
Wallace Shawn, himself, is one of the cast, as the poor, unfortunate Dick, who, it turns out was a pretty awful actor in Robert’s play ten years ago. Maybe that’s why he was beaten up? Anything is possible and nothing is clear at The Talk House and even the abrupt ending leaves everyone confused as to whether or not the strange conversations by the even stranger conversationalists is over or not.
The Director, Ian Rickson does his best, but even he can’t disguise the mannered, one dimensional quality of these odd people with the even odder raison d’etre.