By Guy Webster
It was an ironic twist of fate when, halfway through reading my program for Barefoot Theatre’s
production of I hope it’s not raining in London declare its interest in absurdism, that I noticed my
copy of Samuel Beckett’s Molloy sitting, mockingly, in my bag. I’m sure the irony would mean
nothing – or nothing absolutely - to any true absurdist, but perhaps it would be significant to
Nicholas Thoroughgood, the playwright of this experimental production.
It’s in the program that Thoroughgood professes his interest in many of the same schools of thought that influenced Beckett: absurdism, existentialism and nihilism, to name a few. It is these concepts – each one loaded with a pretty significant amount of emotional heft and theatrical history – that inspired Thoroughgood to pen this play. It’s no surprise, then, to note the absurdist ring of the play’s premise: two characters are locked in a room with no memory of how or why they got there. Their memories come to them in the form of small brown boxes, reintroducing them to the traumas and triumphs they faced in their lives.
It’s an interesting premise, and the space at PACT theatre lends itself perfectly to its experimental undercurrents. With checkered flooring and searing light fixtures, the set establishes the absurdist world of the characters well, while also facilitating the transitions into key flashbacks. The four-person cast alternates each performance, with two central and two secondary players who act as supporting characters and stagehands. In chairs on either side of the performance space, each stagehand hovers over the performance with almost divine influence, observing the actors and providing them with clothes, props, even blood.
On stage for this performance were Cassie Hamilton and the playwright himself, Nicholas
Thoroughgood. Named the One and the Other, Hamilton and Thoroughgood are the odd couple of
existential existence; he’s joyous and naïve, she’s nihilistic and jaded. Both of them spend the play coming face to face with the traumas of their past and the uncertainty of their futures while also navigating their unique relationship to one another. Thoroughgood, perhaps as a result of knowing the play, sits easily into his character and delivers much of the play’s humorous moments with ease. Hamilton was particularly engaging in quieter moments (the first date scene was a highlight) and her more emotional scenes were delivered mostly with sincerity and depth.
Where the play – and the actors with it – become unstuck is in the fine line the piece draws between absurdism and realism. As Thoroughgood mentions in the program, absurdism merely facilitates a more obvious interest in how each character faces their individual traumas. While the situation they find themselves in is perhaps absurd, the characters react to this situation as realistically as anyone would. Likewise, each flashback prioritises realistic experiences and director Riley Mclean translates this into a similar prioritisation of realism in his directing choices. While there is no specific issue with favouring realism in this way, it compromises the overall effect that the play’s absurdist tendencies seemed aimed at evoking. As the play repeatedly swings between realism to absurdism there is a sense that something is lost with each swing. The realism compromises the absurdist setting, and the absurdism renders many realistic moments devoid of impact. Unfortunately, the actors lose themselves at times in the crossfire.
There are two plays here that, on their own, could be significant but ‘One is almost finished but the other is not yet ready.’
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.