The first thing you notice upon entering Circa Theatre One is its remarkable transformation. The stage, being a cottage with no walls, is in the middle of the theatre, and the seating is on both sides of it. This has the unusual effect of being able to see half the audience beyond the stage. It gave an intimate feel to the performance.
The Lead Wait is not a comedy, even though there are a number of humourous scenes in it. It is hard to stick it into a category, but I’d classify it as a dramatic mystery. The mystery traveller obviously has some past history with the other characters, but you don’t know what. The plot is quite captivating, as your mind runs through the possibilities of how it all stitches together.
Leon is the wise-cracking and relaxed head of the house. He welcomes the mystery man back and even lets him use the bath. In fact all four characters have a bath on stage, and this is a source of most of the humourous aspects. Especially when Leon teases young Ian that his bladder got relaxed in the bath. All four characters have full frontal nudity in front of each other, plus of course the audience. This reinforces the atmosphere that in the past, there has been intimacy between some of them.
Juliet I took to be Leon’s wife initially. She was very upset to have the mystery man return, and didn’t want him to even stay for dinner. I was assuming she cheated on Leon with him, but in fact it transpires Juliet is Leon’s sister and she is sleeping wih the young and naive Ian.
Leon has a mania for digging holes in their property, and uses canaries to detect where the air is bad. This greatly , Ian, who is teased for being too sensitive by Leon. Actual live canaries are used in the play, but I presume not killed!
The play is around 90 minutes long and the mystery starts to get solved as time goes on. It then turns from a mystery into a powerful drama. The final ten minutes can only be described as powerful and shocking, with one scene even having me shudder in my seat.
So this play is not a barrel of laughs comedy. Don’t go to it if you are wanting to just be entertained. However if you are looking for a play which captivates you, which grips your emotions, which shocks you and leave you feeling somewhat raw afterwards – then go see it.
The plot is expertly constructed, and the four cast members brought their characters to life. The stage was excellent, and captured that feel of a remote country house so very well.