Sometimes, the English language can simply be inadequate. How it unravels and deciphers our primal instincts is something writer/director Michael Shand has admirably attempted to explore over the last couple of years. Here, he embarks on a rewardingly tough yet sugary journey into the arc of nascent relationships, with moments of pure poetry marred by a superfluous ending.
The four actors (Sara Rodger, Fraser Littlejohn, Emma McKenna and James McIvor) are multicast as a young couple who fall in and out of love. Rodger will monologue about the awkward first time between the sheets while McKenna describes the idiosyncrasies that make her character’s boyfriend so loveable. Littlejohn will gleefully milk the fact that his character is in a relationship while McIvor admits he’s scared of love. Performed without a set and directed by the company, there’s a lot of pressure on the actors to pull it off, which they do with heartfelt sincerity and talent (particularly Rodger).
Shand has really started to master his comic voice, alleviating some pressure on his dialogue – which in the past has felt a little cumbersome. Direct address allows him to continue his breach of the fourth wall while giving him the chance to pitch light-hearted but well-observed jokes to the audience about sex. This is how a notoriously philosophical topic should be handled, which Shand spices up with pensive moments of reflection and amusing sexual embraces. So it’s such a shame that the ending really spoils the quality of the narrative; it seems as if Shand wasn’t quite sure how to round it off or felt he needed something extra to tug on our heart strings further. The play itself is quite syrupy and potent anyway, and doesn’t require the ending it has, which kind of feels formulaic. There are flashes of Shakespearean elegance and Byron-esque rhythm here, styles which Shand is employing more resourcefully and intelligently; it’s just a case of integrating them into a structure which doesn’t result in cheesiness and predictability.
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