Andrea Hart’s adaptation of Henry Green’s Nothing pokes fun at Britain’s post-war upper middle class while half-heartedly presenting the audience with more serious issues. One wonders why Hart chose to bring the novel to the contemporary stage; if Green’s work seemed relevant and original when he published it in 1952, the adaptation now comes off as strikingly clichéd. Here’s what you need to know: John and Jane are friends who used to be lovers and their children are engaged to be married. The play gets off to a cracking start with a series of puzzling references made in conversation between two couples lunching at the same restaurant. A sequence of cocktail hours and parlour room discussions follow, exposing the thinly veiled tactics employed by each character to manipulate this uncomfortable situation to his or her advantage.
Regrettably, the play tries to present these maneuvers in a comedic light, which only serves to make them watered-down and obvious. At one point Jane says, “I don’t have a problem with her, only that she’s a horrid beast who simply oughtn’t to be alive.” Ba-dum-ching. Words like beastly and darling are thrown about with abandon. The ubiquitous waiter, Gaspard, takes a tumble and plays a kazoo. Whenever things get hairy someone’s got to take a tablet and lie down. Even the arresting elegance of the set design and the admirable efforts of the accomplished British cast can’t revive the platitudes that are just as tired as the characters performing them.