Friday, 11 August 2017
Mosquitoes at The Dorfman
“Sisters, sisters, there never were such devoted sisters”; or so Irving Birlin’s song goes. Unfortunately, this statement is not always as straightforward as it sounds, as is the case in Lucy Kirkwood’s wonderful new play Mosquitoes, now playing at The Dorfman. The two sisters in this case are Jenny (the incomparable Olivia Colman) and Alice (the excellent Olivia Williams). Two prize Olivias for the price of one!
As with many siblings, the two women couldn’t be more different. Jenny lives in Luton and is often referred to by her mother, Karen (Amanda Boxer), amongst others, as stupid, whereas Alice resides in Geneva and is anything but. For clever sister is a physicist working at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern. A single mother to equally bright, but potentially depressive son, Luke (Joseph Quinn) she is currently “seeing” Henri (Yoli Fuller). Jenny, meanwhile sells health insurance to women with vaginal cancer and is currently grieving over her dead daughter. Belligerent, raucous and hilarious in equal measure (the perfect role for Olivia Coleman) Jenny has added guilt to her grief as she decided against having her daughter vaccinated. On the surface, two complete opposites, explained by Jenny when discussing their mother’s reluctance to give up smoking whilst pregnant with her as “that’s why I’m Forrest Gump and you’re the Wizard of fucking Oz”. But is she as stupid as Alice is clever? Mosquitoes sets out to question this assumption.
The two sisters collide when Jenny, along with mother, descends on Alice and Luke for a prolonged stay. What follows is chaos theory in practice, with Luke running away, Jenny upsetting Henri and Karen slipping into dementia. The sister’s problems with one another are magnified and stretched to breaking point. Can their fractured relationship not only survive, but possibly improve?
Well that’s the social plot of Mosquitoes but there is also a heavy dose of physics, supplied by the white-coated boffin, The Boson (Paul Hilton). But don’t let that put you off, as the interludes during which he subjects us to baffling (well baffling to me) theories as to the ways the universe can end, coincide with wonderful happenings on stage, thanks to Designer Katrina Lindsay’s clever set, Paul Constable’s magnificent lighting and Paul Arditti’s affecting sound.
Lucy Kirkwood has cleverly combined the everday workings of a dysfunctional family with that of the universe. In short, chaos and instablility (Jenny) versus order and stability (Alice) affects their lives just as much as it affects the universe.
Thanks to the superlative acting from all concerned, the answer to the previous assumption about Jenny and Alice is arrived at via 160 minutes of absolute joy. Full of energy and whip smart repartee, it zings along at a cracking pace carrying every human emotion along with it. We discover that intellect doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with practicality. It’s Jenny who copes with the everyday problems of a demented mother and is more in tune with Luke’s problems. Alice not so much! What is also determined is that, emotionally, they are two halves of the same whole.
I can’t praise the two Olivias highly enough, as they both faultlessly portray the polar opposite personalities of the two siblings. Olivia Williams is the ultimate cool, patronising and obsessive, successful professional but perfectly demonstrates her confusion when out of her comfort zone.
Olivia Colman on the other hand is effortless at showing Jenny’s contradictions and her comic timing is second to none. She may often portray the ordinary but her acting is anything but. The woman is a revelation and if she’s appearing in play, film or tv, I’m there!
Amanda Boxer must also be applauded. Playing Karen, a successful scientist, now reduced to peeing on the floor, with a continually depleting memory, she manages to make her amusing and sympathetic in equal measure. Joseph Quinn’s Luke is likewise very believable as the socially conscious but self centred innocent and Paul Hilton is the perfect intense boffin.
With Rufus Norris sensitively handling everything that happens on stage (and so much does), his ability to hold our attention throughout and even want more, Mosquitoes is an absolute joy from beginning to end. It is an absolute triumph.