No One is Coming to Save You is an abstract piece of theatre which eschews character development and plot narrative, in favour of exploring recurring images. Glasses of water, a hammer, a television set, and a dawning and dying light. Directed by Charlotte Fraser and devised by This Noise theatre company with writer Nathan Ellis, we are presented with a man and a woman in separate flats, who cannot sleep. Their minds run rampant through fragmentary memories and teasing twilight thoughts. The play constructs a world of information overload, with a kind of affection that is infectious. It attempts to knit together a patchwork of abstract images in an attempt to deliver the message ‘everything will be okay’. Sometimes, this message lands. Other times, it feels like the play is battling itself.
A strange twilight space, which can feel whimsical and overbearing
Actors Agatha Elwes and Rudolphe Mdlongwa should be commended for carrying demanding performances with an easy grace. They stylishly jump from image to image with quirky inflections and total dedication to the task. The humour in the play is – in almost all instances – a product of their own performances. With cadence of voice and careful physical suggestion, they occasionally transform Ellis’ imagery into something loaded and hilarious.
Ellis’ script is a dense text, which needs a bit more unpacking before it can deliver an emotive impact. Only in one scene is there dialogue between Elwes and Mdlongwa – all other speech is comprised of something like prose-poetry. Here, there were moments where energy faltered. Ellis’ writing is colourful and rich, but many of the images were detailed to an extent that the narration of them became labyrinthine and excessive; other images were refreshingly simple and resonant with the tonal message – that everything will be okay. The audience trusted Elwes and Mdlongwa’s performances more than the words they wrestled with. Their calming presence was often more meaningful and suggestive than the scenes they described.
The space is intimate, and Elwes and Mdlongwa encourage audience interaction with a mischievous air that works. By the end, all audience members give the performance something (without necessarily participating), and the closing scene is encouraging and optimistic.
If the play felt less discordant, the abstraction of experience felt by two lonely people in the dead of night would be affecting and persuasive. Currently, No One is Coming to Save You plays with a web of spoken imagery, without landing essential and powerful punches. It is probably the case that many audience members can relate to the dread felt in the middle of the night – of lives slipping away and the world moving too fast. That the play marries these fears with an overall optimism is commendable, and shows that the seeds of something moving and resonant are there. This Noise have constructed a strange twilight space, which can feel whimsical and overbearing. Elwes and Mdlongwa are charismatic ambassadors of the narrative abstraction, and tactfully shepherd the audience through a sequence of odd and often perplexing gear changes.