In a new play by Matthew Kirton, the ageing Jack Goodman is trying to attend his daughter’s violin recital at the Royal Opera House, before being detained by two detectives unusually interested in his daughter and the origins of her musical talent. The opening scene took you through the relationship between daughter and father, which was essentially a bit trite and twee. The subsequent scene, consisting of a confrontation with the detectives, came across as more of an interrogation scene in a modernist or absurdist comedy, clashing with the more naturalistic style of the previous scene. The plot then unfolds as disturbing details are unearthed regarding Jack Goodman’s past.
Whilst the central premise is cohesive, too often the production fell into dangerously sentimental territory and seemed to inform you of how you should be feeling at certain moments without letting you decide for yourself. The violin music interludes, pinpointed by serious faces staring off into distances, slowed down speech and accounts of nostalgic memories were one example of this. The script itself was also flooded with clichés, featuring lines like ‘This isn’t a game, it’s my life’ during the interrogation scene. The scene itself was a cliché that hadn’t been played or experimented with beyond what you would get in any TV police drama. There was too much repetition of ‘Let me see my daughter’ or ‘I demand to be let out’ and other uninteresting requests. It certainly didn’t make for a believable or suspenseful viewing experience.
This was partly due to the acting. One was all too aware that the actors were delivering lines and waiting for cues rather than reacting to each other in character. James Aaron’s performance as the interrogated Jack Goodman was simply unconvincing and underdeveloped. Aaron was gasping throughout to illuminate his old age and poor health, which prevented variation. Victoria Goodman was played sweetly but her character on the page left much to be desired; she remained the innocent beacon of talent throughout, more a symbol than a character in her own right. The two detectives were sharp and entertaining enough although this quirky acting style clashed with that of the father and daughter - however this fault lies more with the script and the direction.
On top of this, there were several other aspects which came across as amateur which could have been easily avoided. Along the back of the set were cardboard cut-outs with luggage drawn onto them which were neither relevant nor visually appealing. The grey paint used to show Jack Goodman’s old age had only been applied to the top of his head rather than the hair in his ponytail. These neglected details became somewhat distracting. Sadly but aptly, this shaky production of The Violinist ended with a shaky bow.