This week Carmen Paddock reviews Jane Bodie’s ‘A Single Act’, which focuses on the lives of two couples in the wake of a terrorist attack …
For such a young company, Jane Bodie’s A Single Act is a daring choice. It is a ninety minute tour de force, requiring a complete lack of inhibition on the part of the actors and relentless pacing and focus on the part of the entire team. Consequently, the company’s youth makes the impeccable production even more impressive. The visceral truth of its preview run in Exeter was incredibly strong and bodes well for the upcoming London performances from 16-20th June.
The one-act play follows four people – two couples – in the aftermath of an unspecified terrorist attack. Scenes are presented in chronological order from the point of the attack onwards with Neil and Clea, yet they trace back in reverse chronological order to the point of the attack with Michelle and Scott. While the individuals and their situations are different, one thing is certain: both lives sink into despair and alienation in the wake of an anonymous tragedy. The complex structure and the subtle link between the two couples is illustrated by small but significant tie-ins from scene to scene. In this version these scenes are further linked by short, poignant physical theatre sequences – moving beyond words.
The staging is in the round, and everything is covered with a fine, white, plaster-like dust. The seating lets the audience into the most intimate of moments, and the dust lends a sombre, almost post-apocalyptic aesthetic – well fitting the shattered buildings, relationships, and dreams. The cast is the most impressive element of the show; they portray complex, mature relationships well beyond their years. Neil (Philipe Edwards) attempts normality in the aftermath but only heightens his existential crisis by doing so. Clea (Katherine Stevens) moves from numb disbelief to an almost-desperate plea for life. Lucy Hirst heartbreakingly captures Michelle’s fragile deterioration. Lastly, Tom Myles makes Scott’s abusive and tender sides equally believable.
This is an incredibly strong offering from a promising new company and not a show to miss during its London run.