Robert Golding, the sequel to Owen Thomas’ Richard Parker, walks the path from the ordinary to the unusual before tumbling into the chasm of bizarre. The play begins in a new restaurant on the eve of its opening as a married couple (Robert and Jen Golding) await Mark, the architect, unknown to Robert, who has been working with Jen on the restaurant. His arrival marks the turning point of the evening spiralling into the peculiar.
Red and white flats, a table, red and white chairs and ‘Ariadne’s’ painted on one wall set up the restaurant aesthetic. Jen Golding (Sara Lloyd-Gregory) eagerly leads Robert Golding (Alastair Sill) blindfolded into the new restaurant space to surprise him, announcing an evening of dinner and drinks to celebrate the opening, as well as the imminent arrival of Mark (Gareth John Bale). The initial interaction of this married couple is unconvincing; they do not seem close enough or in any way fitting to each other but their individual performances are interesting: Jen, enthusiastic, bright and hospitable; Robert, a ball of cynicism and sarcasm. Although there is little to no chemistry between the two they are quite entertaining to watch and the predominantly well-written dialogue is, likewise, convincingly conveyed on the whole. Lloyd-Gregory expresses Jen’s energetic personality with skill and overall displays consistent and credible characterisation. Sill, on the other hand, is less credible on the whole but elicited an effective laugh or two from the audience in appropriate measure. Some exceedingly contrived moments such as his urgent, unnatural phone calls, let Sill’s performance down in places.
Bale’s performance as Mark initially felt quite two-dimensional but as the play progressed he became more interesting, including moments of humour and more comprehensive sincerity. The initial awkwardness with Mark and Robert carried off well, and the tension between the two as Mark regaled Jen with conspiracy theories and Jen listened and questioned with alacrity. Slightly farcical moments, including Robert’s poorly executed bursts of rage and indignation and occasional heavily clichéd phrases, momentarily lost the momentum of the production. However, despite its minor weaknesses, the twists of this play, although utterly bizarre are rather entertaining and keep you firmly in your seat, if not on the edge of it. Full of intriguing conspiracy theories and surprising plot twists, although not flawless, Robert Golding is worth a watch.