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The "hero", Matthew, arrives on stage dust-spattered and debris-battered, having escaped from a World Trade Center Tower on 9/11.

Theater Review: Late Fragment at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Late Fragment has a lot going for it. There's a topical hook – its "hero", Matthew, arrives on stage dust-spattered and debris-battered, having escaped from a World Trade Center Tower on 9/11. The role is played by Alex Zorbas with powerful intensity but some subtlety.

His materialistic wife Marta (Kelli Kerslake), whose first thought is of the financial implications, is also given a decent degree of ambiguity as Francine Volpe's play progresses. Their relationship and its inevitable decline with the mental health of Matthew, whose personal faultlines are unable to bear the earthshaking national event, are depicted with gripping intensity.

Marta's inevitably drawn to their lawyer Dorian (Louis Lourens), who's "got his stuff" together in the pursuit of cash and status, so unlike her husband. He, meanwhile, can only find friendship with the TV crew sent to get some good "crying pictures", preferably with an account of personal heroism that Matthew is so clearly unable to give.

It is all nicely constructed and balanced — even the TV crew, so easy to paint in caricature, are given characters and feelings. The staging too is slick – the multiple time changes within the "classic New York apartment" set nicely managed with snappy lighting (by Katharine Williams).

But what is it all for? Why are we watching the descent of a fragile man into madness? The human toll of 9/11? Well, I think we've already had plenty of that. As a lesson about the dangers of a focus on materialism? Ditto. Having watched a powerful, moving show, the problem was that I left without any idea of why my emotions had been wrenched and battered.


The production continues at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Soho until July 29. (The show premiered at the Studio Dante in New York in October 2005.) Box Office: 020 7240 6283

About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.

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