The play follows Nick: a young, successful artist struggling with his identity and mental health. Existence is far from easy for the young man, despite being a self-professed “white, middle-class man with a semi-supportive family”. The audience is taken on a journey through Nick’s relationships, exploring his egotistical state and social limitations as he struggles to interact with kindness and consistency. He is at times cruel, callous, and selfish.
Brilliant one-liners, often hilarious amidst the bleak subject matter.
Polly, Nick’s girlfriend, incessantly glued to his side, conveys her painful insecurities from the outset. Amidst all her hurt as she deals with his rejection in denial, she is strong and forgiving. Similarly, Lawrence proved to be a mirror of Polly; the duologue brought out a shining strength in Nick’s performance. Destined to be awkward and reserved, Nick and Lawrence exhibited one of the few heart-wrenching moments in the piece. The play continues to build suspense through the mysterious party connection that binds Nick and fellow artist Beatrix together, with Malissa, Nick’s “Tory Sister” intermittently emerging to offer support. I would have liked to have seen more of Malissa. The transitions held the piece together, never allowing for dead space to emerge as every character moved with purpose.
Yet the play as a whole was unconvincing. The writing is full of brilliant one-liners, often hilarious amidst the bleak subject matter, yet it fails to deal with the weighty themes introduced. These kept the play alive and the audience entertained, both original and witty, yet the play was riddled with clichés. Perhaps this was conscious, as Polly exclaims: “I bet she’s blond, the fucking cliché”, yet they largely exposed the piece, leaving it fragile. Nick adopts the trope of ‘suffering artist’, exclaiming ‘let me get on with it’, yet never nearing the easel he so professes to be drawn to. Relationships deteriorate to the age-old “is it me?” undermining any sincere emotion, before Malissa unapologetically exclaims: “Let’s get drunk. It’s a Wednesday.” Perhaps these do not greatly destabilise the writing, yet the play is further weakened when issues such as depression boil down to “drowning” as the audience drowns in unremitting exposition. The runaway escapist artist cliché finally crumbles.
This is not to dismiss the play entirely. The script could do with some refinement, but the story was compelling. Jon, who Beatrix exposes as intentionally spelling his name without an ‘h’, held the play together, making it an enjoyable experience. He was the only actor who never seemed to be ‘acting’. He re-energised the stage with exceptional comic relief, lacking any self-awareness as he threw away empty complements and belittled Beatrix. He was far from the goofy clown that we were first introduced to, exhibiting a tender and affectionate element to his personality. He refused to be a “cartoon character.”
Despite the clichés and low-brow Brexit / Trump jokes that actually undermined a play full of unique comedy, the audience seemed pleased. Although far from perfect, I could see this play re-emerging in a new and more successful form. With a little work, it has the potential to be not only amusing, but moving.