Directed by Vicky Jones
Pros: An insightful, funny and real look at a couple’s relationship and intimacy. Brilliantly honest performances from the two actors.
Cons: The darker aspects of the relationship were less convincing. In particular, the action two-thirds of the way through and the characters’ reactions to it felt misjudged.
Our Verdict: A play that went from moments of genius to moments that didn’t really work, but I’m still thinking about it.
|Credit: Simon Annand
I can see why both venues suit the purpose of the play. The audience sit around a perfect recreation of a small bathroom, on a raised stage in the middle of the room. The bathroom is a highly intimate space, but one that has been sorely neglected in the history of drama. So when an actor walked on stage in a t-shirt and knickers whilst brushing her teeth and reciting French audio lessons with headphones on, my expectations were set up and my interest piqued.
The performances and writing deliver on this premise: we see a couple, Marian (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and David (Keir Charles), chat, brush their teeth, undress, pee, and bathe over the course of a day. At first, I found it slightly unsettling: although we all do these things, it’s very rare to see others doing it. There was something particularly interesting and strange about watching the actors behave in ways that I’m sure everyone in the audience recognized, yet are rarely presented in so candid a way.
For the whole first half of the play, the characters really throw a mirror up to all of us, and there were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments because of this. The weird behaviours of a person alone in the bathroom (making faces and weird voices in front of the mirror, anxieties around weight and body shape), the dynamic between two people who have been intimate for so long (the funny balance between flirtation and plain weirdness) were spot on. Both performances were excellent, and the actors really managed to make me suspend my disbelief, almost all of the time. They genuinely seemed extremely comfortable and intimate. At times, I did actually feel as if I was looking at a real couple hang out together in the bathroom, completely oblivious to the fact that they were being watched.
For me, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was really incredible – pitch-perfect as a middle-class, quirky modern woman, embarrassed at romance and sincerity, but flippant in the way she discusses the details of their past. Funnily enough the boys who I discussed it with after the show all thought Keir Charles was the slightly better performer – which I think says something about the importance of empathy and identification.
My major problem with the show was how the darker aspects were handled. Two-thirds of the way through the show, without wanting to reveal too much, David acts in a way that is surprising, shocking and extremely difficult to watch (which is testament to the actors’ performances once again). The play explores very interesting darker ideas – the hurt, miscommunication and pain that accumulates over years of a relationship; the way that love often goes hand in hand with hate and a desire to hurt the other person. But for me there was a real problem of believability in the way they were handled, despite a few really profound moments. This feeling was shared by our previous reviewer for the Soho Theatre show. Although many of the characters’ actions are supposedly explained by a past tragedy in their lives, I didn’t buy it and this disconnected me quite strongly from them in the latter third of the play.
I wholeheartedly recommend the play nonetheless and commend the writer, because for every section that I felt didn’t work, there were moments of real genius and invention that more than made up for it. And, most importantly, the play, faults and all, was the topic of a long discussion and the catalyst for a lot of thinking afterwards.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Mydidae runs at the Soho Theatre until 30th March 2013.