D B Horrigan
Directed by Tom Latter
Pros: Some nice performances and good use of the unconventional space.
Cons: Too long for the subject matter covered, some relationships seem unlikely.
Our Verdict: A play which could be trimmed, and possibly reworked, to bring it to its full potential.
Despite having been an avid theatre-goer in London for several years, the Drayton Theatre
had eluded me until now. One of the perks of being a reviewer for a London theatre blog is that you get to discover various venues all around town and this was indeed a lovely discovery. The theatre is effectively a room above a very cosy and friendly gastropub near Gloucester Road. There was some confusion about the starting time, but the extra half hour wait in the pub was no hardship. The play itself, however, proved a little more difficult to sit through.
Presented by Sky or the Bird Unrelated
revolves around the dysfunctional marriage of Annie and Martin. The first desperately wants a child, the second is battling with depression. While Martin is out, Annie gets a mysterious visit from a ‘social worker’ named Jean. Flash forward, and Martin is in prison for murdering a prostitute. The play then oscillates between Annie’s conversations with journalist Rachel, who is trying to write her side of the story in a hostile media environment, and Martin’s sessions with Jean, his high-class prostitute.
This fairly morbid story is set in two rooms, positioned on each side of the stage. On the one side, Jean’s boudoir, and on the other, Annie’s home. These areas are delimited simply by using lighting. The stage of the Drayton Theatre is unconventionally deep, bearing in mind that this is basically just the upstairs of a pub with seats on the narrow side of the room. The company made full use of the space available, which was very pleasing.
Unfortunately though, the performance had its flaws. My main gripe was the length of the play. Although there was a lot of subject matter to cover, I felt at least half an hour could easily have been shaved off the 2 hour running time. This is primarily because there is very little action, the bulk of the play being based on the characters talking through their thoughts and emotions. All this talk and little to no action results in little distinction between scenes, and there is only so much you can listen to about the morality of abusive relationships before switching off. At times, it even seemed as if the characters were just reciting off a monologue which has been split between two people, and I certainly felt that the same points were being covered a number of times.
In addition, some of the relationships between the characters seemed a little artificial. For instance, the journalist Rachel, who magically becomes one of Annie’s best friends almost overnight, was impossibly aggressive and intrusive towards the forlorn wife. Rather than listen to Annie’s side of the story, she was constantly trying to change her opinions. Aside from professional journalistic misconduct, I found it very hard to believe that Annie would have continued to invite into her home a person she met only weeks previously so that she could be shouted at and chastised. Of course, Rachel might not be an actual journalist, but that’s a different story.
Despite the difficulties with the script, there were some enjoyable performances. A highlight was Tom Futerhill as Martin, who came across as vulnerable around his wife, but manipulative around Jean. This gave a pleasing depth to the depressive protagonist. Taniel Yusef’s performance as Jean also was a highlight. Cool, calm and collected when she begins seeing Martin, she slowly loses her decorum through Martin’s manipulations, culminating in an excellent scene towards the end of the pay.
All in all, Unrelated is a promising play which needs some trimming. There are some good performances, but it is simply too long for the audience to stay captivated. Some of the relationships between characters seem implausible and in the end I came out unsure of what this two-hour play had given me.
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Unrelated runs at the Drayton Theatre until 26th October.