I’m lucky enough to have spent this crazy time living with a long-term partner. He’s a key worker so leaves the flat for work as usual. Probably a good thing for both of us! But Always on my Mind made me consider how different this year could have been if it had happened at another time in my life; just after a messy breakup in my early twenties, or when reflecting on whether to end a relationship. Interestingly the show has been adapted from a 2016 play, to reflect this new world we all find ourselves in.
We meet Curtis (Charles Lomas) and Stacey (Lucy Syed) over video, in their respective bedrooms, dressed up for the call. It starts with the cringey “you’re on mute” conversation, which might just be the most overdone joke of the pandemic – but keep an open mind. What follows is the unpicking of their relationship, mistakes they made and how it ended. It’s obvious that blame can be placed on both sides, and you can’t help but feel sorry for the pair as they try to inch their way through such an awkward discussion over video call. However, their conversation feels stilted, and at times it’s unclear whether this is a conscious dramatic decision or a result of editing the two videos together.
Throughout the exchange there are two versions of Curtis and Stacey in each room, the second representing their inner monologue – although I have to admit I didn’t realise they had different names until the credits rolled. It’s a clever and amusing device, which allows both to cringe at what is said, or to contradict statements made about their relationship. It also helps demonstrate how held back we can be, how much we hide from others, particularly when having difficult discussions involving the heart. Visually, this effect is well executed, yet the conversations once again feel stilted at times.
We see some innovative film techniques utilised for changing scene, which bring more to the narrative: while the couple reminisce over a 21st birthday party, they are filmed as though at a party, in a dark corner, music in the background shots. As ‘lockdown theatre from an actor’s bedroom’ goes, this is a much more interesting offering than just talking into a camera. Lockdown technology hits again later, with the dramatic use of a device battery running out. Without spoilers this is an effective way to end the show.
This was an interesting 17 minutes; it felt like I’d managed to tune into somebody else’s Zoom account and eavesdrop, which I loved. But at times the conversation felt a little clichéd. Some might argue that these relationship clichés are used deliberately to create effect, yet nonetheless I left the show hoping for a bit more excitement or drama.
Written by: Liam Alexandru
Directed by: Theodore Gray
Produced by: Charles Lomas, Liam Alexandru, Shipwreck Productions
Edited by: Theodore Gray
Always on my Mind is playing until 22 February as part of The Living Record Festival. Full details can be found at the below link.