SITTING | London, Arcola Theatre

Award-winning actress Katherine Parkinson turns her hand to writing, in this taut, finely observed 70-minute debut. “Sitting” refers to what the life model does in the artist’s studio. A man, woman, and younger woman each take their seats at the start of the play, but they don’t see each other. They each deliver a monologue to the artist, but they were all there at separate times.

Mark Weinman is a stand-out as self-effacing, dewey-eyed, working class Luke, who also has the funniest lines in the show. Hayley Jayne Standing is heart-breaking as free-spirit, scatterbrained mother Mary, slowly revealing her old fears and regrets. Poppy Farrell puts in an amazing professional acting debut as Cassandra. She plays a spoiled daddy’s girl wannabe actress, and yet by the end we totally root for her.

The Arcola’s basement studio space is the perfect for this studio play, dressed artfully with canvases and art studio trappings (Susannah Henry) that fully immerse us in the room. The writing makes the staging necessarily sedentary and static, but Director Sarah Bedi seems to have brought out the very best out of the cast.

SPOILER: the finale sees all three of the sitters leave the stage, revealing three absolutely stunning portraits by 5-time BP Portrait Award featured artist Roxana Hall; it’s an incredible theatrical effect where we actually experience the artist’s “voice” and perspective for the first time. Worth 70 minutes of your sitting.

Spend 70 minutes sitting at the Arcola until 11 May 2019.

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