Boy meets girl. He seems reserved, she more outgoing. They go back to her apartment, he doesn’t leave in the morning and gradually they fall in love. So far, so straightforward. An act of sexual violence then turns everything on its head as Act One show a darker side of relationships that is sadly all too common.
Leave Me is a brave, intimate piece of theatre that you sense will only become better as its run progresses.
Leave Me, written and directed by Kate O’Connell-Lauder, tackles its difficult subject material head on with a bravery that is welcome to see in such a young company. The gambles it takes don’t always pay off but there are some touching sequences to be found and the issue and portrayal of rape is dealt with respectfully and with sensitivity.
Thomas Greene is impressive as Isaac, the warm boyfriend turned drunken aggressor, as he tries to come to terms with his actions and where they might lead him. Jo Beck shows Ella’s transformation from an innocent girl who asks to be kissed to a defiant woman betrayed by her lover with a tender performance made all the stronger by the fact that she is an understudy and had arrived in Edinburgh on the afternoon of this particular performance. The pair can therefore be cut some slack if their chemistry is a little off. Their individual performances are admirable but when together, as they are for the majority of the piece, the intimate, physical sequences lack a certain spark. They both appear more comfortable in the second half where anger is their primary passion, as opposed to lust.
Neither character is explored in any depth but you get the sense that this was deliberate on O’Connell-Lauder’s part: the characters are ciphers, blank slates upon which we can project ourselves. The message clearly is that this could happen to anyone; the piece is genuinely thought-provoking to this end. However, this also means that the dialogue is oddly non-specific and this works against whatever realism is to be found in the situation – there are only so many context-free arguments that can be had before it all becomes a bit repetitive.
That said, the play does try to engage neutrally with a thorny subject, which is to be admired, as is the length of time it takes to tell Isaac and Ella’s doomed story: at 40 minutes, the show is the perfect length to get its point across without outstaying its welcome. Nia Squirrel’s solo violin accompaniment also adds a touch of class, although why her playing isn’t used in the frequent (and tiring) blackout transitions is unclear.
Leave Me is a brave, intimate piece of theatre that you sense will only become better as its run progresses. At this stage though, it can realistically be taken or left.