I had high expectations for Evening at the Talk House, probably unfairly, Wallace Shawn wasn’t known to me as a playwright, but for being in nearly all of my favourite tv shows. So not exactly a qualified perspective.Evening at the Talk House begins well, it takes on the story of Robert (Josh Hamilton), a former playwright and now successful television writer, on the eve of a ten-year reunion since his last, unsuccessful, play. An engaging monologue, familiarity which creates an easy atmosphere. And so the evening begins, well enough, with good humour and the scene of the evening set.
The group gather at their old haunt, the Talk House, and what had been so much more in their memory is now really is an old haunt. The introduction of Wallace Shawn as Dick, a once admired actor, now recovering from the effects of an altercation and more than a bit bruised as a result. His overview that his friends left him in this state begins the first confusion.
As the group reacquaint so the two dialogues commence, the first of a jovial reunion, of rose-tinted spectacles and of could-have-been’s. And then there’s the more confusing, more disturbing dialogue that comes to the fore, from politics into targeted killings. The conversation of who deserves to live, or assassinations, and the need for gentle killings moves the laughter to a more confused state. Whilst the dialogue is baffling, seemingly at a tangent to all that has been set up, it still allows the relationships to be rediscovered and for the characters to be positioned and explored. The seeming delicacy of Sinéad Matthews’ Jane is contrasted with her assignment of assassin, and yet as the play comes to a close the character’s delicacy is realised again.
The play ends abruptly, in some ways timely, leaving more questions than answers.
But whilst it does this, and is well-timed, after 140 minutes, there isn’t the head space to consider the final act, the mind is too busy trying to process everything that led to this point.
The oddity of the script never seemed to fulfil itself. There is a timeliness to some of the themes no doubt, but it seemed too far beyond to allow a clear message to be left.
Evening at the Talk House is at the National Theatre until 30th March 2016.