Pitch Productions’ remarkable adaptation of James Fritz’s 4 minutes 12 seconds offered an intense exploration into how one person’s decision can affect not only their life, but the lives of all those surrounding them. With the title referencing the length of a leaked online video, at the centre of the play is a largely indescribable act that provokes a scrutiny of relationships, rape culture, and the portrayal of victims.
With the only props being two chairs and a laptop, the staging allowed the actors to seamlessly change scene and establish the characters’ feelings, as represented by the chairs’ proximity. The laptop itself became the elephant in the room, acting as a constant reminder to the audience of the act that forms the basis of the play. The simplicity of both increased the focus of the play’s narrative and made the inevitable confrontation of the video unavoidable.
All of the actors handled the material admirably, demonstrating variances of shade in each of their performances that allowed the audience to fully understand the nuances of each character. The severity of the situation became increasingly heart breaking with the progression of the play, which contrasted humour with the difficulty of the subject matter, achieving both audible laughter as well as an uncomfortable silence throughout. The credit of this belongs to the actors whose characters felt natural, allowing their interactions and relationships to remain unforced. This was particularly important between Jack’s doting mother and father (Slimani and Tiplady), whose confused handling of their son’s actions was achieved with an impressive subtlety, preventing each of the potentially over-the-top characters from becoming ridiculous.
Sarah Slimani was the central force of the play, becoming the thread that guided the audience through her exchanges with Jack’s father, ex-girlfriend, and best friend. In demonstrating a range of tonal variations, Slimani’s character acted as the link between the audience and Jack’s actions, allowing us to closely follow her journey and ever-changing emotions. However, the most captivating moment was her reaction on viewing the video, in which Slimani was able to convincingly express the breakdown of a mother’s belief in her son’s innocence without uttering a single word. Rohan Perumatantri’s characterisation of Nick offered an easily likeable counterpoint to Jack in his subtle portrayal of the best friend. His blind enthusiasm in the final scene revealed how such acts remain largely unpunished, creating an almost tangible numbness for Di as well as for the audience. Eliza Cummings-Clove was equally as impressive in her role as Cara, demonstrating an acting strength that prevented her character from becoming one-dimensional. Instead, she brought to life the complexity of the character’s emotions, reclaiming the lost voices of many victims.
The proximity of Durham made the events in the play particularly relevant, and the production felt like a much-needed entry into contemporary concerns. As Cara articulates that ‘there is no end’ to the repercussions of rape, the audience will certainly be left with a lasting impact that I believe will provoke important discussions about the state of our culture, especially as experienced at university.