By Hannah Sanderson
From the moment I heard about the premise of this play I have been excited to see it, and I can say with confidence that I was not disappointed. Four Minutes Twelve Seconds maps the reactions of four people after a sex tape is released online. Isabelle Culkin’s extremely naturalistic direction really added to the more chilling aspects of the play. There was nothing more than two chairs on set at any one time, forcing you to concentrate on the words. While this meant that scene changes were swift and seamless, I would warn the actors to allow a little more time between each scene as it could often be confusing for an audience to realise when the play actually progressed.
Sarah Silmani (Di) played a very convincing distraught mother, capturing the audience’s attention from the beginning and maintaining it throughout the play. Her high emotional state and the indication that she was always on the point of tears meant that no audience member could fail to pity her. She also showed particular skill through the quips and retorts that her character had, often forcing the audience to laughter even when they felt they should not. There were occasions however when some of her lines were lost through gabbling and I would advise her to slow down in some of her longer speeches. While it might seem realistic to talk quickly and force the words out, it does unfortunately mean that the audience struggles to follow.
Zac Tiplady (David) created a hilariously laid back father who the audience could not help but laugh along with through the first half of the play. It was his character that had the greatest journey throughout the piece, and while I felt that his character was slightly flawed Tiplady made him believable. He confidently played a character many years his senior, and his dynamic with Silmani was convincing. One could believe they had been married for years in spite of the short, week-long rehearsal period! He must project more, however, as often whole chunks of speech were lost through his quiet tones.
Rohan Perumatantri (Nick) portrayed a convincing moody and slightly thick teenager. Despite having a lot less stage time compared to the other actors he managed to build on his characterisation by watching from the sidelines with the same listless expression he held whilst on stage. I would recommend a little more variation in his character during his first scene as it is quite a leap of faith to believe his confession to Silmani later on.
Eliza Cummings-Cove (Cara) really grew into her character throughout the piece, and while it was difficult to relate to her at first she soon became the most sympathetic character in the play. This worked to her advantage so that Cara had a much stronger effect on the audience towards the end. Her first scene could have done with more energy, and while I know she is portraying a disinterested teenager, she must pick up the energy levels if she wants to keep the audience’s attention.
There were of course some slip ups as one might expect in taking on such an ambitious play in a week. Actors sometimes appeared to jump around the script and, although the general plot did not change, this did leave the audience confused. As long as they iron out the lines, however, tonight’s performance will be even better!
The power of this play is in the silences, and the actors drew these out extremely well. In concentrating on what was unsaid it forced the reader to also notice the shocking words and opinions. The fact that Jack was never actually on stage built the tension more and more throughout and the sudden end to the play left the audience in a stunned and horrified silence. If you want a happy evening then I cannot recommend this play, but if you want to learn something and realise what a cold and heartless world we live in then you must go see it. Twelve hours on and I still have not completely recovered. In light of current events this is a very important play and a Durham must-see!
‘Four Minutes Twelve Seconds’ will run until Tue 14th June in the Debating Chamber, Palace Green. Book your tickets here.
Photograph: Isabelle Culkin