Lone Star Diner
Reviewed – 5th September 2019
“an interesting and very watchable production”
Absorbing the styles and visions of modern American playwrights and screen writers, Cameron Corcoran conjures up a contained, remote world in ‘Lone Star Diner’, illustrating the shattered American Dream from different angles and with emphasis on what he considers the overlooked perspective of women. The plot is neatly constructed, twisting through the dialogue to reveal the reasons behind the characters’ behaviour, relationships and decisions. The overall effect, however, is not so much a feminist standpoint in a misogynistic world, as an impression of hardship, helplessness and acrimony in the USA, in which Corcoran is influenced by TV series and films. The personalities in the play are clearly drawn from these. However, in recreating rather than growing into their own roles, they can only go skin deep and are consequently hindered from interacting with complete conviction.
Director, Mike Cottrell, works hard to build up the tension from slow, low-key suspense to the unexpected burst of the outcome, though the balance before and after the interval is like a team getting a talking-to at half time and pulling their socks up. In the end, Billie Hamer, as June, gives a strong performance, showing desperate frustration from a past of trauma and disappointment, but at the beginning she needs the jaded fragility of her suffering to be apparent and make sense of her actions. Seamus Dillane struggles with his American accent, somewhat undermining the ruthless confidence of Cyrus. His opening scene with June is sometimes too hurried and clumsy for someone who is emotionally detached; instead of the calculated persuasion of his vulnerable victim which should arouse our suspicions and empathy, it comes across as a heated discussion. As the exploitative employee Larry, Adrian Walker-Reilly goes for the sinister undertones and expressive eyebrows of Jack Nicholson. Unfortunately, he never quite achieves the malevolence and, though tied to an underpaid job, it is hard to understand June’s true fear of him. Jack Sunderland brings relief as Billy Lee, the lawman. Verging on over-mannered at first, he offers some captivating moments as he uncovers the complexity and confusion of his feelings and sense of personal debt and duty.
The black and white floor tiles and metal furniture of the set (Natasha Shirley) immediately set the scene, with the encroaching sand of the surrounding desert reminding us of the diner’s isolation. Daniel Maxted’s lighting design creates dramatic and atmospheric qualities throughout the show and which intensify the cinematic approach. As a reflection on the fraud, greed and inhumanity that has resulted from the American Dream’s ethos of freedom to attain prosperity and success, ‘Lone Star Diner’ is an interesting and very watchable production. Yet the focus on female liberation becomes overshadowed by the many peripheral ideas, from an outsider’s eyes, wound into the story to enhance the cultural image. The poignancy of modern American theatre comes from the fact that American playwrights are simply writing about life.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Lone Star Diner
Omnibus Theatre until 7th September
Previously reviewed at this venue: