Atrium is one of three shows in the current Belt Up season at the Southwark Playhouse, and one which unfortunately flags up some of the company’s weaknesses. Although admirable to present so many shows at one time, it’s hard not to feel like they’ve got a little too much on their plate.
Using the same set as the earlier show, Lorca is Dead, Atrium follows the haphazard memoir-writing process of mad man Malcolm Kinnear. The confused and confusing action revolves around Kinnear’s interaction with his ghost writer Paul, his maid Butter, and his wife Penny. Although a Belt Up audience should always be prepared to feel slightly outside their comfort zone and discombobulated by its randomness, Atrium is too disordered to be enjoyable. There are entertaining moments and clever lines: Butter asks Kinnear how he’d like his eggs and he answers “Faberge”.
Atrium begins sluggishly and takes a time to fall into place. Kinnear’s generic “madness” is a naive construct, and we don’t understand until moreorless the end of the play that his wife is only presented as a transvestite in a hot dog costume because that’s how he imagines her. Atrium has all the attributes of a good first draft of a play, but it’s just too muddled and awkward to be entertaining. Belt Up are at their strongest when together as a full ensemble. Here, in depleted ranks, the drama can be complacent and lacklustre.