As part of TheatreWest’s ingenious A to Z project some of the region’s finest playwrights randomly picked a square on the map of Bristol and after visiting the locations the writers went away and wrote scripts inspired by the places they had picked. Tonight’s two very different pieces utilise the same simple but effective set - a large grass verge - and both take an off-beat look at love and relationships.
The evening begins with a short warm-hearted piece by Crysse Morrison about two strangers who form an instant emotional bond after meeting at a park and ride on the edge of the city. The two-hander follows Jack (Dan Maxwell) who dwells on the outskirts of society and who feels no sense of belonging having been brought up in various care homes. Jack is at the park and ride harbouring thoughts of suicide - after witnessing a particularly traumatic event - when into his world steps Fran (Dee Sadler) an unhappily married woman looking for more from life. This brief vignette about two lost souls is beautifully played by the two actors and has a script which is both natural and believable.
David Lane’s Rush takes a more surreal look at relationships, blending folk tale-ish fantasy with naturalism seamlessly. Middle-aged couple Carys (Eluned Hawkins) and George (Gareth Kennerley) wake to find themselves on a sandbank after jumping from a cliff in a suicide pact but it quickly becomes clear something is not right. In the afterlife George has apparently taken on the appearance of a younger man and has to persuade the disbelieving Carys that he is still the man he was despite his outward appearance. After years having been within a body wracked with disability George initially relishes the feeling of being whole again but as the couple talk about their life together deeper emotional issues are bought to the fore.
Rush is a stylistic ambitious play which constantly skips from one reality to another as we also glimpse Jane’s clandestine relationship with a mysterious stranger on a nearby island. Both actors pull off this transition of roles/realities with aplomb and manage to convince equally in both scenarios. The two actors deserve enormous credit for two brilliantly energetic and believable performances.
The play works by keeping the audience guessing on what exactly is happening, although there are perhaps times when things are a little too ambiguous but on the whole the narrative time-shift really works. Rush is a play of surprises and Lane’s imaginative script is filled with flights of fancy; the after-life, body swaps, a merman and a devilish pact. It is really refreshing to see a writer take a risk with his subject matter in such an intimate space.
As their previous seasons have proved Theatrewest are essential in providing a platform for the region’s new work and providing the participating writers an inventive and stimulating framework in which to create new stories.