The Company of Players (CoPs) - Hertford


Company of Players - No Image Available
Season: 1995-1996
7th – 14th October 1995 at 8pm Separation
By  Tom Kempinski
Directed by Graham Kilner

Sharp New York humour matches intelligent British wit in this tender and funny play.

Tom Kempinski’s bittersweet transAtlantic love story tells of two people, from very different backgrounds, facing very different barriers and challenges to overcome.

Joe Green is an unsociable, unproductive, and phobia-ridden writer, whose one-hit play leads him to become friends over the phone with a New York actress who is keen to stage his play, but who is also suffering from a paralysing disease. When Sarah finally arrives in London to take their relationship a bit further, Joe’s neurotic nature almost – but not quite – kills the love affair completely.


Joe Green
Sarah Wise


When it comes to obscure illnesses, the Americans lead the way in converluted labels. The English on the other hand prefer something more succinct or brief to describe their conditions. Tom Kempinski’s play Separation about two cripples demonstrates this. Sarah Wise in an actress suffering from Relapsive Peripheral Polyneuropathy Of Unknown Origin, whereas Joe Green is simply A Rat, whose creative skills as a writer are submerged beneath his inability to cope with childhood trauma. Sarah struggles on, despite her handicap, whereas Joe is a slave to his condition. The two meet via a transatlantic telephone call as Sarah tries to re-establish her acting career by performing in one of Joe’s plays – The Empty Palette. They develop a relationship that demonstrates the differences between them and similarities that bind them. As a result Joe starts writing again after five years of writer’s block and Sarah starts acting again care of his previous work. They become emotionally and professionally entangled.

Any two-hander is going to be demanding, and Separation more than most. Kempinski’s lacklustre script is both inconcise and unresolved and as a result requires animated performances and considerable empathy from the actors to communicate his message. The ideas and characters have not been fully thought through. Kempinski has embarked on an idea that has not been fully developed and as a result gets hopelessly lost in it’s execution.

Given the shortcomings of the script, Separation requires a dynamic performance from the players, and this is something that was almost, but not quite delivered by either Emma Muir or Frank Bye. They understand their parts, but not in the bone, not in the marrow. They play their parts, but they do not become them. Passion was played out, rather than communicated. In particular, Frank’s portrayal of Joe Green’s despair in the second act was particularly unconvincing as he wailed and moaned his way through a tortuous scene of grief as he faced up to his buried emotions. On the other hand, his nervous handling of their first face-to-face meeting showed a grasp of timing and a talent for comic effect. Emma Muir as Sarah Wise lacked the maturity of the part – her anger portrayed by volume rather than self-assured thrust. However, both players tried hard to fulfil their roles and acheived a standard that would challenge many others.

Given the size of the stage the set was very well designed, with clever and imaginitive use of space. The use of a split stage and different levels in such a small area was quite an acheivement, as was the challenge of lighting such a confined space.

All-in-all though, there was no joy in the production. You didn’t come away with the feeling that you had experienced or learned something. It was a dry production that left no after-taste, no lingering thoughts, no sense of I have been entertained. This is not wholly the fault of those that staged the production, but of the fundamental flaws in the play itself and it’s construction. The Director Graham Kilner has made a brave attempt to stage a play that he clearly has a passion for, but at the end of the day, has failed to deliver entertainment or enlightenment.

Please don't forget: Coming up soon...

By Terence Rattigan
27th September – 5th October 2024
By Charles Dickens
29th November – 7th December 2024
By Henrik Ibsen
7th – 15th February 2025