As you enter the intimate space of The White Bear Theatre the first thing you notice is a young woman, Laura (Anna Bonnett) sitting comfortably on a two-seater sofa reading a copy of Homes & Gardens. There are signs of a party – streamers, discarded bottles of alcohol and champagne glasses. It seems clear this is a middle-class home. “Who is she waiting for?”, I wondered.
It’s a slow start until Laura’s peace and quiet is finally disturbed by the intercom buzzing – although bizarrely it is answered on an old-style telephone (a rather odd prop choice!). Laura asks a series of questions, and it is soon obvious that the person outside is a stranger. A better script choice here might have been to have the other person as a voiceover, rather than leaving us to hear a lengthy one-sided conversation. The stranger, Jess (Christie Silvester), is not put off and Laura goes off stage to speak to her at, what we assume, is the front door. At least this time we could hear both parties! But again, it’s a bizarre staging choice, having both actors off stage and to simply hear voices for what felt like an age. Many audience members were trying to crane their necks to see what was happening, all rather in vain!
Although intrigued as to who this stranger is – it transpires she knows Laura’s fiancée – there’s no real action or pace. I’m left asking myself when would Michael (or Mikey, as he is known to Jess) make an appearance?
Jess is particularly compelling to watch, and her motive is at least clear – to save Laura. There are some interesting themes present – obsession with social media, gaslighting, trust, lies and relationships – however, I found myself increasingly disengaging from the play. Poor staging choices mean that there were too many times when all that can be seen is the back of an actors’ head, and the scene between the two women felt far too long. Thankfully things do heat up a little when Michael (Louis Fox) appears and there is a twist or two to the story. But I simply found myself caring very little about either Laura or Michael.
There are heartfelt moments, and these were captivating to watch – Laura’s tears over the harsh realities of her relationship to Michael being exposed, and a couple of humorous moments, such as Jess’ question “Can I use your bathroom?” being met by Laura’s abrupt “no”. What a shame there wasn’t more of this humour.
Also enjoyable were the moments when Jess and Laura appear to reconcile and connect (Laura’s tears felt very real), but increasingly I simply wanted the script to deliver more! Sadly, it failed to do so, and the bizarre, abrupt ending felt like a damp squib!
Written and directed by: John Patterson
Produced by: Angel Theatre Company
Forsaking Others plays at White Bear Theatre until 18 June. Further information and tickets can be found here.