A difficult look at a physically and mentally abusive relationship, Is This Thing On? uses a mixture of physical theatre and words to take us on an uncomfortable journey through the history of a relationship.
Actions speak louder than words.
Disa Andersen’s debut play is hard to watch. It tackles emotional and physical abuse. We see a young woman trying to navigate friendship and love; loyalty and betrayal. Andersen’s writing is strong in parts. There are moments of wonderful poetry, in particular a monologue by Alice (played by Julie Vaapenstad Holm) in the last few moments of the play. The imagery used is clear and concise, helping us to understand what Alice is going through. This is one of the highlights of the show.
Although there is a choreographer (Vaapenstad Holm showing she is mulit-faceted) there is no director credited. The production is muddy, a mixture of movement and words, there is no specificity and a director would definitely have helped with this. The physical movement says so much more than words ever could. The strongest moment of the show comes with Joanna (Disa Andersen) and Jack (Joshua Stretton) in a clear, defined, strong movement sequence, caught in a spotlight (lighting by AK Lie). It’s beautiful.
Perhaps this is the problem then? The script is not concise, yet there is not enough detail. A 30 minute piece can be difficult to write; one can only delve so far in that time. There is so much material but it hasn’t been fully explored. Frigg Theatre pride themselves on dealing with taboo subjects. They are definitely doing that, but Is This Thing On? needs to go further. We want to know more about the characters, and what they really feel. The descriptive imagery in the monologues helps with that, but the relationships between the characters needs developing. The dialogue is occasionally flabby, but the movement is clear and full of feeling. We want more movement.
A complex mix of moment and script, Is This Thing On? is difficult to watch and not always in the right way. A taboo subject, that definitely needs a voice – it’s admirable that Frigg Theatre are tackling it, but in this case actions speak louder than words.