Witty, humorous dialogues on the one hand, and a profound reflection upon mental health, imagination, relationships, and relativity of time on the other. You can find all of it and so much more in Belvedere, the critically acclaimed European play by Romanian-born playwright Ana-Maria Bamberger, directed by Lydia Parker at the Old Red Lion Theatre.
A seemingly simple plot unfolds a story of a famous writer, Anton, who receives psychiatric treatment from Dr. Defoe and simultaneously, encounters ghosts from the past. Yet, a constantly changing dynamic between both characters and temporalities blurs boundaries between the past and the present.
Tracey Ann Wood as Stephanie, a mysterious visitor from Anton’s memories, is the most effortless performer among the whole cast. She is natural, unintrusive, graceful, and authentically charming, thanks to which she perfectly envisions a forgotten lover from Anton’s youth.
Contrastingly, although Dan March as a hallucinating writer unquestionably makes the audience laugh with his expression and movement, sometimes he gives the impression that he is trying too hard. He does a great job at depicting a chaotic and lost patient, although sometimes it’s difficult to understand what is being said.
The most entertaining bit of Belvedere, both in Bamberger’s writing and on the Old Red Lion’s stage, is the relationship between Dr. Defoe and his patient. Stefan Menaul and Dan March understand each other very well as attentive acting partners. Thanks to their chemistry and wonderful teamwork, their dynamic, quick, and enjoyable performance truly amuses the audience.
The set design by Tamsin Robinson, who is also responsible for costumes, deserves a round of applause as well. Simple yet dynamic and complete, it convincingly recreates the scenery of a psychiatric hospital and it’s quite grim, sterile ambience. It also enables the actors to efficiently transport the audience to different times and spaces, blurring the lines between realities.
Belvedere, an important play about mental health, presents the problem from different perspectives but does not take any sides. Although the production by Over Here Theatre Company and Magus Theatre Productions is not perfect, it perfectly conveys the complexities of both entertaining and contemplative text. Worth seeing and worth reflecting upon.
Belvedere is at The Old Red Lion Theatre until 13th November.