"When I was very young, I had a dream that I could step inside any book and become part of the story." So says our narrator (Rosanna Wood), a young girl sitting on a large packing trunk in the middle of the stage, before she becomes mute for almost the rest of the play.
The play very nearly sparks into life. Almost.
She's still there though, pulling the other three actors on and off the bare stage-in-the-round, angrily pushing them together, forcing them to interact with each other. She's a puppet-master, and these are characters in the books she's reading who she's puffed life into to try to dispel the lonliness she feels.
We see a parade of people – lovers, all – playing out their own little particular stories, mostly sad, beginning in the Victorian era and ending in present times. The message? Love hurts, so it's OK, safer, to be lonely, to be the puppet-master rather than the protagonists in life/literature. Or that's the message I came away with from this rather dull play. I think maybe the writers (Wood and Annabelle Sacher) were trying to tell me something else but I couldn't for the life of me work out what.
The vignettes, which all end in some sort of awkward dance, sucked the life out of me. Trying hard to be profound, they floundered in their pedestrian turn of phrase, in the hammy acting of the two boys (Ross Kernahan and Jack Stannard), and in the fact that they were simply unengaging. Even when the actors were looking me eyeball to eyeball and pouring their hearts out, I was unmoved. Perhaps I have a heart of stone, or perhaps I'd just heard it all before.
At the end, our narrator speaks again and the play very nearly sparks into life. Almost. At least the two girls can act, Wood with her juvenile energy and vim, and Sacher with her carefully modulated tones, but not even that could save this dreadfully leaden hour.