In January 2021 Lucinda Coyle began to write a new and ambitious play – one that stemmed from a single scene of two characters arriving in a café and meeting for the first time. The result is Our Last First, performed at The Union Theatre, a play with 4 characters, none of which are defined by age, gender, race, religion or pronouns – they are simply people and words. The narrative of the play follows A and B as they meet, fall in love and then reach their romantic end. Sibling and Friend are the other two characters, who help to build a real and true world around the romantic whirlwind A and B provide. One selling point for Our Last First is that it is not just a simple love story, it is not just a play with four ambiguous characters, it is a play where each night the actors change roles and they do not know who they will be playing until the last moment. This extremely refreshing idea sits at its very heart. The message is that love is love and that we are all capable and deserving of it. The play provides a unique opportunity for its tremendous actors to play differentiating roles in a short run and I’m sure other audience members would agree that we’d love to see them all in each part, so we need another run please!
Coyle’s script is pacey, witty and so true to life. Designer’s Beth Colley and Ana Webb-Sanchez create a simplistic and fresh-looking set, which comes across as extremely playful, complimenting the script well. With everything going on it is perhaps easy to forget the work of Sound and Lighting designers Lily Blundell and Daniel Maxted, but their efforts go a long way in building the abstract yet believable world that we so want to engage with.
In this particular performance A and B are played by Louis Raghunathan and Aitch Wylie. Raghunathan’s performance is extremely convincing, everything he does rooted in truth. Opposite him Wylie is an ever lively, yet not exhausting, love interest, who gives a sensational performance as they portray the extreme highs and lows of this relationship. Tazmyn-May Gebbett plays Friend, a support for Raghunathan’s character and at times a burden on the relationship. It is difficult to believe that Gebbett doesn’t play this role every night as she takes ownership of the stage and gives a compelling performance. Jonathan Case‘s Sibling is a character who goes on a journey from bitter and petty to supportive and benevolent. Case handles the transition well and he is an exceptionally open actor in the space.
So much credit needs to go to Intimacy coordinator Katharine Hardman, who allows the actors to look as if they had been performing these same roles with each other for months; for the cast as a whole to be able to do this each night, in different parts, is an immense testament to Hardman’s work. Each tender moment seemed real and never awkward or tense. Praise too for director Stanley Walton, who gives the actors the tools required and they have run with them. The set and space were used smartly.
Sitting in the far corner of the thrust stage did feel isolating at times, as much of the play is directed toward the middle. I’d suggest setting the whole production two feet further back, which may have resolved this minor issue.
I’m sure we have not seen the last of this play so everyone should be encouraged to catch it on its return. Thank you to Lucinda Coyle and the whole production team. This is what theatre needs.
Written by: Lucinda Coyle
Directed by: Stanley Walton
Designed by: Beth Colley with Ana Webb-Sanchez
Sound by: Lily Blundell
Lighting by: Daniel Maxted
Our Last First has completes its run at The Union Theatre on 20 November. Check Lucinda Coyle’s Twitter account for further updates on a future run.