Goodnight Polly Jones is a new play by emerging writer Andrew Sharpe and is now in its premiere season at Theatre N16. This theatre has a stated aim to provide a space in which to nurture new writers, actors and theatre companies and there are almost weekly offerings of such plays that deserve the attention and support of theatre lovers.
The premise of this play is sound and its subject matter meritorious of much further exposure and exploration in drama. This much is acknowledged on the back page of the programme which provides information about the Rapecrisis organisation and support centre. Such dark themes as rape in the work space can, and possibly should, be handled with a light comedic touch. It is not always necessary to match dark theme with dark and heavy drama.
Goodnight Polly Jones certainly keeps it light and entertaining and playwright Andrew Sharpe has written a clever, innovative twist in the tale. The play is accurately described in the programme as being:
Hilarious and terrifying…a devastating indictment of sexual behaviour in the modern workplace.
The situation is loaded with humour in a variation of The Prince and the Pauper storyline and terrifying in the plausibility of its occurrence in those moments when the audience understand what has actually occurred.
There are only 2 characters in this play. The male protagonist, Peter, is beautifully played by Ben Keenan who shows a fine comedic timing and is as sympathetic in his portrayal as the erring male boss as can possibly be in this most unsympathetic of situations. He gives a warm and endearing performance, creating a character who appears to have fallen in the habit of doing harm.
The female character, Polly, is played by Victoria Morrison who is not quite as comfortable in her role and thus not as believable as her playing partner. Some of the lack of congruity in her character may be due to a lack of flow between the scenes.
The play is constructed in three scenes, with the middle scene being a flashback to earlier times, the time of the rape. In between each of the first two scenes the cast re-set the stage in lights down mode and then leave the stage to change costume and, in many senses, character. (The names of the characters are the same but there are substantial changes in their relative status.)
In those times the stage is dark, and though writer and sound designer Oscar Garvin have provided an entertaining and informative voice-over, there is still a large amount of dark stage.
There is much about this play to commend but it needs more work. Hopefully this run will provide the impetus for further amendments to the script and production, because the core idea is a good one. This is a piece which should be developed further and I look forward to seeing the next step in its evolution.