Sitting, the debut play by comic actor Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd, Humans), explores the lives of three characters who are sitting for portraits. Through a series of dramatic monologues addressed to the artist offstage, we gradually discover these characters’ stories and what has brought them to be painted.
The monologues are believably naturalistic
This is a play in which not much happens. There is little physical movement or action, and the only proper interaction is between each individual character and the offstage artist at the time of their sitting. The climaxes and resolutions come from understanding the characters’ motivations and watching them come to their own realisations. The standard of acting from the cast is so high that this form of delivery is almost enough to hold the audience's attention for the full hour. The monologues are believably naturalistic and the combination of discomfort and emotional release feels organic.
The premise of sitting for a portrait is initially interesting. It allows the characters to relay their innermost thoughts, without it being as obvious as a therapy session. However, after a while the structure lacks direction; although you learn more about the characters, there seems to be no point to the information. It is intriguing to work out the complexities of the characters by observing moments when they are vulnerable or evasive, but keeping track of all these moments when they don’t obviously link becomes increasingly difficult. The act of taking it in turns to speak also becomes formulaic. It is only at the very end, when the connections between the characters are made, that the details become satisfactory. Luckily, these connections are clever enough to redeem the slower moments.
The high standard of acting makes the characters worthy of our affection and interest; there just needs to be a little more structure and purpose to keep the story flowing.