The Vertical Hour by David Hare

Dates and Venue 13 November-6 December 2009 @ 8:00pm Jericho Arts Centre

Reviewer Jane Penistan

“A ‘vertical hour’ is a term used in military medicine to describe the first 60 minutes following the occurrence of trauma. It is widely believed that a victim’s chances of survival are greatest in the intervention and medical care one receives within the first hour”, the director’s notes in the programme inform us. In other words, it is the moment when you can be of use to someone else or a moment when you are able to see the truth about yourself.

This play deals with politics, war and human relationships. Indifference to wars and disasters in distant lands seems to be a current attitude in this day and age. It is difficult for those who have no familiar connection with those serving in the forces or doing international civil service or charitable work overseas, to realize that danger and grief are part and parcel of everyday life.

Hare demonstrates how individuals respond to events that happen personally and internationally. How useful can one individual be? This intelligent, perspicacious and sometimes, humourous play is well presented by United Players. The director, Tamara McCarthy, has set the play with the audience on three sides of the wide acting area. The American university lecturer’s office is on one side and the Shropshirec, English country house garden occupies the remaining two thirds of the space.The lighting is beautifully managed, changing the lighting from harsh office interior to sunlit rural daylight to gentle evening or dawn ambience.

Well dressed by Mandy Brost, the actors are comfortably and suitably attired.
The performance is well timed, never rushed but always moving at a varied, never dragging pace. The subtle script is intelligently delivered by all the actors who present this timely, contemporary, deeply questioning play.

Nadia Blye {Claire Lindsay} is an erstwhile war correspondent in the Balkans War, now a lecturer at an American state university, visiting England with her boyfriend, who also works in the States. Apparently self assured and opinionated, she meets a country doctor, Oliver Lucas (Graham Bullen), father of Phillip, the boyfriend. Oliver and Nadia get on well together, rather to Philip‘s chagrin. Intelligent and intellectual discussions on the international state of affairs force leads both of them to look at themselves and in doing so reveal past secrets. Philip watches and becomes involved and he too has to confront himself

In her office, Nadia confronts two students, one in the opening scene with a brash, somewhat conceited young man, Dennis Dutton, cleverly performed by Sebastien Archibald; and in the closing scene, with the confused and insecure Terri Scholes (Marlene Ginader). Nadia has come full circle.

This is a high calibre production of a thought-provoking, but never didactic, timely work. 
© 2009 Jane Penistan