New Era - Sylvia
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New Era - Sylvia

14th to 16th and 20th to 23rd June 2012.

Here is the NWN review.

Bone of contention

New Era Players: Sylvia, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Thursday, June 14 to Saturday, June 16 and Tuesday, June 19, to Saturday, June 23

Ever-adventurous in the variety of plays chosen, New Era Players performed perhaps one of their most alternative plays yet.

Sylvia gave us the overly-familiar tale of modern times - a couple in Manhattan with kids recently sent off to college; Kate, the wife, finally getting the time to focus on her teaching career; husband Greg bored with his job, starts to stray away from his happy 22-year marriage when, while walking in the park, he meets the playful, energetic and subservient Sylvia who rekindles a fire in him. All sounds pretty familiar, right? Right, except for the small difference - Sylvia is a dog!

Sylvia, played creatively and dynamically by Nicola Sowden, presented an intriguing challenge to the actors, which was met with relish. From the first scene when Greg arrives back to the flat with Sylvia, the relationship established was a joy to watch. Both Greg and Kate could speak to Sylvia as if she was a person, but naturally still spoke to her like she was a dog. Watching Sylvia being told that she was a good girl, was particularly funny due to the perfectly mischievous human smugness in her reactions. The human reactions where then contrasted beautifully with normal doggy behaviour, such as scratching, yelping, being 'on heat' and of course sniffing other people's crotches.

With Kate growing more and more frustrated at her husband's increasing interest in Sylvia (including a full makeover) and decreasing interest in her job promotion, the first act ended with Sylvia and Kate both on all fours, declaring "may the best species win".

In the second act, Greg and Sylvia's relationship grew stranger and stranger. With a fellow dog walker in the park warning him of their ever growing closeness, the couple seek help from a psychiatrist (Karen Ashby) who is also eventually broken by the strangeness of Greg's attachment to Sylvia and tells the couple that they must get rid of her to save their marriage.

With a really well-designed set and clever music selection this was an all round strong performance. Sowden naturally stole the show as Sylvia. David Zeke was excellent as Greg, delivering all lines straightly, despite the fact he was talking to a dog and Kathleen Ray conveyed Kate's fury and bewilderment brilliantly until the end when, even though she wouldn't admit it, she finally got used to Sylvia and was perhaps even glad to have her around.

DAN MORTON