Over in Turnham Green, Adam Highland’s first stage play, Type on Paper, proves to be a rather unusual political piece which opens conventionally, with young MP Miles (Edward Green) and his aide Sophie (Helen Percival) discussing process in the House of Commons.
Ben (Kriss Dillon) is tapping away on an old-fashioned typewriter (incongurous with all the e-devices in evidence), and it transpires he is the writer interacting with his characters.
Once Ben engineers a job within his own play, the stage is set for a clever meta piece in which each person, real or imagined, influences each other. This is promising stuff, as is an unrequited love plot kickstarted by an amusing and euphemistic discussion between Ben and Sophie about “tennis”.
Miles waits for his lines, refuses to engage with some of Ben’s plot devices, and appears confused when incidental music is heard between scenes. He is daddy’s proverbial blue-eyed boy, an arrogant Labour centrist who cannot understand how his party has stepped to the left.
Sophie is more complex, only revealing her vulnerabilities when drinking and dancing to Bob Seeger tracks, but she stops short of gaining our sympathy or interest. Perhaps this is another indication of the shallowness of politics and those who play within it.
What I didn’t like was the underhand “Corbyn-bashing” in the person of the off-stage radical leadership contender, Grady. Perhaps Highland wanted to make something of a disgruntled centrist comment, or, does the play address the gap between the Labour parliamentarians and their wider following? Either way, there’s more than enough of that in real life, and I didn’t feel it was needed here.
Type on Paper is short (an economical 70 minutes), with exemplary acting throughout, strong direction from Tallulah Sheffield in her debut, and a suggestive set of box files, bottles, and books.
For me, the bits that were most successful and innovative were those involving Ben (a character who dabbles in everything and knows nothing) stepping into his own imagination and facing up to his own limitations.
Type on Paper runs at the Tabard Theatre until 3 August. Photo credits Edward Green and Tallulah Sheffield.