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Donal Fleet: A Confessional

Joan Davies enjoys a Pinteresque play at 24:7 Theatre Festival

Published on July 23rd 2009.


Donal Fleet: A Confessional

Sean Gregson has written an absorbing play about relationships – relationships between men and women, the young and their parents’ generation, old friends and near strangers, and, possibly, between family members.

If you’re happy to build your own story, spot the one the writer intended, or like me, view the characters as representational rather than real, you’re likely to have an enjoyable and intriguing hour.

The acting is superb. Lloyd Peters gains audience empathy for the middle-aged Donal Fleet, a jazz journalist who has not moved with the times. He types on a machine even more ancient than the shabby bedsit furniture and record player, his Bombay Sapphire bottle providing the only modern touch. An educated man, Fleet wants to progress, but needs closure from the past.

James French plays ‘The Lad’; an unsettled and unhappy young man. It’s a strong performance from this actor who convincingly jumps between outright menace to a matey approach which never fully disguises his threat.

Szilvi Naray-Davey exhibits power and vulnerability in her convincing depiction of ‘The Woman’. She’s the type of woman we’ve all met: she's got glamour and poise but has so little confidence that she can't imagine life without a male partner.

Even as she realises the need to escape one damaging relationship, she’s partially seducing her next man. Her glamour will give him kudos beyond his expectations, but he will never be able to give her the care and support she craves. And you know she could do so much better.

Programme notes recognise the collaborative work done by the whole team, particularly director Frances Piper, to bring this new play to such a mature standard. Audience engagement was high – lively and varied interpretations dominated the post-performance bar conversation. How long had the characters known one another? Were they related? The histories told or hinted at – were they true, false or just one of many interpretations?

If you’re happy to build your own story, spot the one the writer intended, or like me, view the characters as representational rather than real, you’re likely to have an enjoyable and intriguing hour.

With the mix of menace, unexplained relationships and Fleet’s conviction that he’s moving on, there are hints of Pinter’s The Caretaker, but few pauses. Like other plays I’ve seen during this great little festival, it’s leaves you wondering how a writer can pack so much into one hour.

Donal Fleet: A Confessional is performed on 23 July at 12.30pm and on 25 July at 6pm in New Century House. Tickets cost £8 (£6 concessions). Click here for more information.

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