Review by Kate Gaul
The third and final major project of the Purple Tapeover is a 90-minute play by Alex Tutton, “Come Again”. In 2016 Sal (Angela Johnson) reports her partner, Nic, missing. Dedicated constable (John Michael Narres) just can’t let it go. In 2023 Sal now has a new partner, Noni (Gabrielle Bowen) and Noni wants a baby. Sal isn’t so sure. The play is a series of scenes where Sal reveals herself as a downright liar or, she could be a confused victim of coercive control? This is a play of increasingly unpleasant characters. The narrative is overly long – the characters talk too much and there’s not much nuance here. The distasteful relationship violence of the denouement left me confused about the intended style of the piece. I won’t reveal the details as this would be an unfair spoiler.
Chekhov wrote words to this effect, “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off.” It was a set of strategically placed knives in a chopping block that kept catching my eye, along with a small container of salt (for the wounds?). By the time the cast iron fry pan arrived on stage the audience began racing ahead of the action. The play starts with what seems like a quasi- naturalistic dialogue between Sal and the policeman. There are a number of non sequiturs on the part of the policeman – his questions jump around and rely on assumptions: look, we’ve all seen police procedurals (on TV) and this guy just seemed dodgy to me. There is an extremity in the writing and – intended or not – the play has a real edge of black comedy. This is nowhere more apparent than the closing moments of the piece (again, nothing can be revealed here) where a hearty laugh from the audience bought the curtain down (so to speak). The quest for truth is the purpose of (most) art. But style isn’t related to the quest. Some of the dialogue is arch and yet the director (Lu Bradshaw) and actors seemed unaware of the potential for the riches of style here. The situations of the drama are untenable (lying, miscommunication, conceive control, domestic violence) and in theory it’s hard to get a laugh out of bleak and extreme situations. And yet that’s what writers can offer us in the interrogation of bleak and extreme situations. It’s possible I am overthinking, but I find any kind of domestic violence on stage needs assured packaging, a jolly good pay off, and at best to be avoided if such themes can be explored in different ways.
Frankie Clarke’s impressive lighting is worthy of note – it’s hard to get an even wash in any theatre and here it is. The set design (uncredited) has a large mirror at each end of the traverse space – an effective touch at the KXT theatre and one that I suspect may be utilised again on other productions. Kudos to Purple Tape Productions for sticking necks out and championing new work, emerging artists, and engaging audiences beyond the stage. Impressive courage, vision, and a heap of panache. Lily Hayman and Tyler Fitzpatrick (Producers) are two names we won’t forget soon.
“Come Again” runs until the end of this week – go and make your own mind up about this one and enjoy the internal struggle it inspires!
Image Credit: Clare Hawley