Alex Rome Griffin is intrigued by Suffragette Theatre Company’s latest chilling offering, Four Minutes Twelve Seconds.

Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, by James Fritz, was presented by Suffragette Theatre Company at Cafèdral and was directed by Francesca Haydon-White, with Sephie Hotchkies producing. The play is a grim demonstration of how our online personas are often our darkest selves and how consent, which might seem black and white, suddenly turns grey when placed behind a computer screen. The plot follows Dave and Diane, played by Alex Comaish and Catherine Wright as they struggle to come to terms with their son’s leaked sex tape. Both of them desperately want to put it down to a childish mistake, but accusations of rape by Cara, their son’s girlfriend (played by Abbie Priestly) soon causes them to question their preconceptions about their son.

Cafèdral was a sound choice of venue, its intimacy and homeliness creating the sense that you were in Di and David’s sitting room watching them both. With such little space, the production team were able to divide it up so the scenes that took place outside the sitting room felt separate to the ones that took place within. This was done through the use of a drab table, contrasting the brighter colours of the sofa. Whilst this ensured that the stage was well divided, when not in use, the table looked somewhat incongruous.

The downside was that such clear partitioning of the space sometimes left the action feeling a little cramped, with actors not always able to take full advantage of the stage for the risk of blurring the spatial boundaries. This should not, however, distract from what was otherwise a very believable and clever use of such a small venue.

Clever staging goes hand in hand with good acting and direction. Despite minor problems with the use of space, the only other issue was a tendency for performers to stand up and sit down at random intervals. Whilst movement is vital when performing in intimate venues, it became distracting and the addition of some more subtle dynamics in the blocking would have been good.

The acting, too, was brilliant. Catherine Wright as Diane was a standout performance, beautifully portraying the slow unravelling of her character as she comes to terms with her son’s actions. She held the attention of the room and delivered her lines as if speaking them for the first time and her emotions were often plain to read on her face. I enjoyed watching Alex Comaish’s performance develop throughout the production, he really came into his own as his character became more sinister. His portrayal of the father as cowardly, amoral and utterly self-serving was well rounded by the time the lights went down. Both of them worked well together, but the extended periods of dialogue had a tendency to lag due to some issues with pauses; both had a tendency to cut their sentences off in anticipation of being interrupted.

Abbie Priestly, as the son’s ex-girlfriend was also a strong performance, she pitched her character as utterly dislikeable, but someone we came to sympathise with as we realise what she’s suffered. The same can be said for Nick, played by Jeremy Page, who appears dull and unsure at first but turns into someone both likeable and passionately moral. Whilst largely solid, they both occasionally seemed a tad flat, with the characters not being developed as far as they could have been.

Some stumbled sentences also left me wondering if there was a slight issue with lines for all actors.  These problems will doubtlessly iron themselves out in subsequent performances.

Over all, despite some minor issues, the production was slick, emotional and utterly engrossing. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening.

Four Minutes Twelve Seconds will be playing at Cafédral on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th November.

Image: Suffragette Theatre Company