While the title didn’t do much in exciting me about the premise of this play, Simon Marshall’s Zips was a highly enjoyable and surprisingly emotional play. Set in local Teignmouth, it was part of the ‘From Devon with Love’ festival, aiming to showcase local talent, and what better place to look for it than Exeter University? Written and performed by students, this was a perfect opportunity to show their capability of creating drama deserving to be performed outside of a university environment.
The story itself was fairly straightforward, focusing mainly on siblings Dan and Eliza, and their dissatisfaction with living in rural Devon. This relationship was by far the most interesting, complex, and best acted, with both actors providing good chemistry and a high degree of believability. While they face a different set of problems, it is when they come together that they are at their strongest, and most engaging.
The central issue revolves around Dan, who has feelings for his friend Rich. The issue of LGBT representation is handled with care, and far from exaggerated. It was refreshing to see a play dealing with these issues that was not overflowing with camp characters and stereotypes. The question being posed was about the limits of friendship, and “how much someone can really be there for you without you hoping for more”. This was interestingly done, and provided some truly heartfelt moments.
highly enjoyable and surprisingly emotional
This is not to say that it wasn’t a funny performance. There were more than a few laugh out loud moments, and the script was strong, despite a couple of clunky moments along the way. Above all, it was believable, which I think is the most important thing in plays such as these which are driven more by character than plot . We saw the characters change over the course of the hour, exposing the complexities of modern family life and relationships, with the role of Dan and Eliza’s mother, while not a huge presence in the play, being of great importance.
The central metaphor of the zip, with two sides interlocking but never really meeting was clever, but not overused, and the realisation that Dan would rather “be a button” was honest, funny and touching. The whole play was, in fact, all of these things, and while it flirted with the saccharine, it was never over the top in its portrayal of emotions. Its limited performance is a shame as I would usually end by recommending that you go and watch it; all I can say is look out for Simon Marshall in the future, keep an eye on the Bike Shed’s schedule (it truly is a fantastic venue) and keep on supporting our University’s dramatic talent.