Apparently, the Autumn programme of the Dulwich Players had run into some difficulties, not that this was apparent in this brilliant production directed by Nicky Cole. ‘Nuts’ is a very tense play concerning the supposed mental illness of a high-priced call girl indicted on a charge of first degree manslaughter after allegedly killing one her clients in self defence. It made a successful film
of the same title in 1987 starring Barbara Streisland and Richard Dreyfuss. The entire play, of three acts, is set in the courtroom of the psychiatric wing of Bellevue Hospital, New York.
The defendant’s mother, (Lydia Dickie) and step-father (Roger Orr) attempt to have their daughter declared mentally incompetent for fear of the scandal which would descend upon the family when her chosen line of work was revealed. The District Attorney (Edward Langley) attempts to prove that the defendant, Claudia Faith Draper (Lucy Fletcher) is mentally unfit to stand trial and should be incarcerated in the mental hospital until she is deemed to be sane. His medical witness is Dr Rosenthal (Hugh Blake-James) who appears intent on keeping her there ad infinitum. That is the opposition the twitching, strained Claudia faces. There is just no one that she can trust. The action in the play derives from the exchanges between these witnesses and the defending counsel Levinsky (Georgina Hickleton) as she seeks to shake their testimonies and explore their prejudices.
It is wordy play, dependent for its success on ability of the actors to maintain the pace and to subtly display the emotions of their characters. There are some lighter moments; the pricking of the balloon of ludicrous pomposity of Arthur Kirk, the hapless Claudia’s father-in-law, but most of the play is absorbing in its exploration, through the cross-examinations, of the characters of which the most gripping is that of the defendant herself, superbly played by Lucy Fletcher.