Two Artists In a Relationship

Jude (Michael Lake) and Iris (Ella Muscroft) are a couple who care – both about each other and their respective careers in directing and acting. This was once a romantic and artistic match made in heaven – Jude used to imagine and write parts for Iris, whilst she fed his hopelessly fragile ego with enough validation to keep him in the theatre. As Jude’s emerging stardom becomes a tantalising possibility for the young man so desperately in need of recognition – especially from the critics – Iris despairs at the lack of jobs that the industry has afforded her. Casting agents seem to shrug her off, claiming she is too short, and unlike Jenny - Jude’s lead actress who he has a hushed history with - Iris is not blonde. As self-oriented ambition intermingles with apathy, their old love starts to sour, but does not die, as the couple come to re-learn how to truly talk.

The script, written by Ella Muscroft, is well-crafted and full of funny one-liners.

The script, written by Ella Muscroft, is well-crafted and full of funny one-liners whilst remaining tender. Bexas Barlow’s direction brought out the subtleties in the script, and the energy never dropped. Both actors were compelling, although the characters remained quite unlikeable, which was perhaps the point. Iris came across as passive and bitter, whilst Jude seemed to lack even a semblance of self-awareness and was agonising in his purported omniscience. He spoke with imperatives that occasionally sounded menacing and abusive, and exhibited a painstaking saviour complex which reduced Iris to a source of ‘invaluable material’. Yet the way these two characters – two people, ultimately in love - negotiate their opposing perspectives and seek to understand each other remained both warm and real.

Although the story flowed well, each scene was punctuated by fading blackouts, all of which felt unnecessary. The music helped to relieve openings of dead space, but these bland transitions didn’t do the story justice. The kitchen-sink set also seemed to limit the possibilities of interesting movement onstage, which perhaps would have complemented the naturalistic dialogue. Although the ending did feel a little rushed and predictable in contrast to the rest of the play, it had a beautiful symmetry to it which tied various open-ended tensions as well as conversations together.

The play has potential and feels original. As a writer, Muscroft creates room for character development. By contrast, Iris and especially Jude force each other into stasis. He claims to be capable of reading her ‘like a book’, in effect taking ownership of her mind, whilst Iris refuses to be charactered as an extension of him. I’m also not sure about the title, but as Jude rightly reminds us - whilst resisting the urge to rant - ‘What’s the point in reviews anyway?’

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Reviews by William Leckie

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The Blurb

Iris is an actress struggling to get work and on the verge of giving up – Jude has just had the best opening night of his career. Two Artists In a Relationship gives a powerful insight into the challenges faced in a relationship when ego, self-esteem and careers start to overshadow everything else.

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