Never has the Trafalgar Studio 2 had more tension crammed within its four walls than in Thomas King’s emotive production of Tape.
Stephen Belber’s dramatic three-hander tells the story of two old high school friends, Vince and Jon, who meet up in Lansing for the screening of Jon’s new film. But while the aspiring filmmaker has come to witness a defining moment in his career, volunteer fire fighter Vince has an ulterior motive.
Unable to bury past secrets, Vince is here to discover the truth about what happened between his friend and former love Amy on one night in high school. Was it consensual sex or ruthless rape? With the help of a tape recorder and his friend’s confession, the drug dealer turned private investigator is determined to find out.
A motel room in Michigan provides the setting for Belber’s fast-paced drama, but what begins as a dull and lifeless space boasting little more than a single bed and a bathroom soon comes to resemble a dramatic bullring in which these two men see out their personal conflict.
The overwhelming sense of entrapment that pervades Alex Marker’s set allows for an intimate exploration of the play’s characters, revealing the twists and turns of their every emotion, be it anger or anxiety, as they address the extremely sensitive topic, which even Jon struggles to verbalise.
Displaying a compelling power battle between Jon’s persuasive words and Vince’s physical aggression, King’s production creates a powerful and humorous dichotomy between the two lead characters. While it seems that Darren Bransford has had to swallow a dictionary for his role as defensive Jon, whose “excessive linguistic pressure” is felt every time he opens his mouth, Marc Elliott’s energetic performance as drugged-up Vince has a far more dynamic dimension as he prowls around the stage like an animal seeking out its prey.
Like the referee coming to oversee the fight, Kate Loustau’s district attorney Amy brings calm to proceedings, her telling facial expressions conveying fragility while her sweet but assertive tones indicate the strength of her character. As with most referees – and district attorneys for that matter – it is she who has the final word, reducing the men before her to two helpless figures whose lives are in need of a radical reassessment.
As the auditorium plunges into darkness, you are left not knowing whose side you’re on or who has won the fight, but satisfied none the less with an hour and a quarter of engaging and hilarious entertainment.