The Clearing

Review of The Clearing with Gareth Thomas at The Everyman Theatre Liverpool - Ellie Baskerville

We start with a confession, I'm not a theatre going kinda gal. I prefer my entertainment faster and louder and usually in the privacy of my own bedroom. I was a tad bewildered therefore to find myself trundling towards Liverpool on Thursday night with two fellow conspirators to watch The Clearing, a play described in its own promotional literature as 'moving ' (arty people-speak for 'depressing') and 'powerful' (usually translated as 'the lead dies') and with a plot based on ethnic cleansing. Well,OK, call me shallow but it didn't sound like a barrel of chucks to me. On the other hand the star pulling power of Mr Gareth Thomas can never be underestimated nor can the prospect of an enjoyable evening in the company of Harriet and Hellen and so I went. As it turned out not only were my fears about the play unfounded but I ended up enjoying myself so much that I intend to go back and try out more of these things they call 'theatres' in the future.

The usual domestic emergencies meant we pulled up to Oxford Road Station with screeching tyres. I immediately panic that we've missed the train and start wandering about the platform muttering 'We're doomed, doomed' in a passable impression of Frazier from Dad's Army. Luckily Harriet and Hellen are made of sterner stuff and with the cunning use of logic and a greater faith in Railtrack they eventually calm me down. The leather clad rock-chick option pays dividends as the freezing wind whips round our Urels but soon enough we're westward bound.

We arrive at Lime St. 45 minutes later. The taxi to the Everyman takes us past the Roman Catholic Cathedral which glows like a glowy-thing in the night. It's the grandest teepee I've ever seen. We settle down to a couple glasses of vino and Harriet samples and grades the fayre 'very good' before the gong bongs and we are called to our seats. First impressions of the Everyman are that the theatre has fallen on hard times. The soft furnishings have a kind of squalid charm but the staff are kind and attentive and the place has a nice relaxed informal feel about it. The seating is banked and surrounds a square of floor on three sides. The bit of carpeted floor turns out to be the stage. As you can imagine this means the actors are very close to the audience. I guess it caused logistical headaches for the director but I feel relaxed and drawn into the action because of it.

I'm counting on other people to describe things like the plot and the set and stuff cos I tend to concentrate on the nitty which was, lets face it, Gareth and ah eh the bloke playing the lead. He's dishy enough to retain my interest but his Captain Darling doppelganger looks means he seldom diverts from the main attraction. The acting from the whole cast is nothing short of brilliant but Gareth shines. He has a powerful presence on stage, aided and abetted by his size and his acting is focused, controlled and very convincing. I notice his character, Solomon is wonderfully tactile. Almost everybody gets a hand on their shoulder or a hug. It is these small touches that really make the character come to life for me. The second half promises to be a showcase of debauchery. At one point Gareth's character is asked to remove his shirt and for a while I think it's going to be 'Horizon' all over again. Unfortunately it's been decided that Liverpool isn't ready to see a half dressed Gareth and he keeps his shirt on. The dodgy marshmallow I ate earlier is safe for the time being. The second thrill of the evening is the appearance of Gareths bare feet (and I can report there are ten perfect little pinkies, no warts, veruca or athletes foot). Harriet notes that they are a lot cleaner than when we last saw them in 'Terminal'.

Despite being out of our seats like whippets we only manage to beat Gareth to the bar by minutes. Although free drinks have been provided for the cast he queues and purchases his own pint whilst chatting to the 'unwashed'. The after show discussion turns out to be a question and answer session and is notable only for its brevity. Manchester theatre goers must be made of sterner stuff. I've known post show discussions to go on till the next days matinee at the Royal Exchange. Harriet being blessed with the least social inhibitions within our group and a Gareths Gorillas badge scoots up and introduces herself as one of 'Judith's lot'. Hellen joins her to secure an autograph whilst I hide behind a convenient pillar, fearing that my now swollen throat (I have flu) won't be a match for the smoke from Gareth's cigarette. Either the pillar is smaller than I'd hoped for or I should stop eating them marshmallows but I'm spotted and I join the conversation in time to miss an update on Michael Keatings performance in Charleys Aunt'. We chat for a bit longer before the rest of the cast become intrigued why Mr Thomas has ended up the top totty magnet of the evening. Too soon it's time to fly. I launch into the street to hail a taxi and then home again home again jiggity jig to a warm house, a sleeping babe and the arms of a man wearing a Freedom City T-shirt.

Many thanks to Harriet and Hellen for a great evening, Robert for baby-sitting and Judith P for encouraging people to go see a great play.

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Last updated on 19th of November 1999.