Writers’ Room: Home
Difficult to Describe, Understand or Measure is a brilliant one-act play in two halves by new writer Sibila Diaz-Plaja. Bergman would have listened intently to this sure-handed anatomy of a couple’s parting, to the overt reasons for her ostensibly calculating career move and then to those that cannot be spoken.
Sibila has written a beautiful male part in this new short play, one that could define many an actor’s career. We are entranced by Tom, played astonishingly well by Nick Edwards, who is the vulnerable jokester, a steadfast, persistent, perceptive, besotted companion whose sole ambition is to write a book while sharing his life with Jo.
Jo, for her part, played equally mesmerizingly by Rebecca Allan, is a strong and sweetly determined young artist, who applied for and obtained an art residency in her native Boston, resulting in the hard-nosed decision to leave her adopted UK and move states-side, snapping all emotional ties that might hold her back in this new chapter of her career.
Out come the boxes, the joint book possessions get sorted in three piles: mine, yours, and then the odd one, with books that are a-bit-mine-and-a-bit-yours to give to a charity shop; the clothes get folded away but also tried on for fun, to re-enact one last time fragments of a love story they both clearly still cherish.
We don’t really grasp Jo until a soft toy falls off the pocket of one of Tom’s jackets: bought the moment Jo told him she was pregnant but before she informed him that she wouldn’t keep the baby. He would have been fine with either decision, we hear. Yet Tom peels off more of the defences of the woman he loves and gets her to admit to herself that unspoken quid-pro-quo any woman exacts of herself when giving up her chance at motherhood: the imperative to be the most successful version of oneself.
The second part of the play experiments with time sequence, perhaps less successfully than the author would have hoped for. The couple is seen in the early stages of their relationship, when moving into their flat for the first time and finding out about each other’s expectations for the future. There we see that motherhood was perceived differently from the start. Tom is caught out when he refers to a “mini-me” running around the place. In other respects, however, the second part feels redundant and adds very little to the already deeply moving and satisfying closing of the first part.
However, the play is a perfect fit of script, direction and casting. The actors clearly love the material they are working with and give their all to the characters. Sibila Diaz-Plaja is an author we need to hear more of, and Faith Abongo is a young director to look out for, making every line and every emotion stand out in a production that felt nothing like am dram and every minute like it all took place on a much grander stage.
Difficult to Describe, Understand or Measure is playing as part of a series of shorts as part of Writers’ Room: Home. The other plays are An IQ Test for my Birthday, Homemakers and When You Go to Ireland.
Written by: Sibila Diaz-Plaja
Directed by: Faith Abongo
Produced by: Writers’ Room, Tower Theatre
Writers’ Room: Home plays at Tower Theatre until 16 December. Further information can be found here.