The image of a man in his mid-twenties living at home with his mother will be all-too-familiar for many 20-somethings and their parents. But despite the fact that Chris Purnell’s play Together We’re Heavy focuses on 25-year-old Rob’s search for independence and a girlfriend, it is in fact concerned with the unravelling of Rob’s mind as his increasingly isolated existence fuels a dangerously obsessive nature.
Unfortunately the play is loose at the seams. Purnell structures Together We’re Heavy around a revelation that occurs in the final act and in the process of doing so makes the play dependent on that twist, rather than making it engaging right up until that point.
With the exception of Rob, the characters are only fleshed out at the play’s final moments. The next-door neighbour, Lorraine, played by Miranda Keeling, and Rob’s mother Mary, played by Jean Apps, are central to the action and to Rob, but both are used primarily as a means of furthering the plot. It’s not until we understand Rob that we begin to also understand the women that dominate his life. As a consequence much of the play is frustrating. A great deal of information is held back, presumably to create tension or inspire curiosity, but failing to do so.
Director Tanith Lindon’s use of video between scenes is symptomatic of this problem. The projections create an interesting way of exploring the workings of Rob’s mind but the relevance is only clear once the final revelations have occurred.
Jai Lynch is convincing in the lead, ably capturing both the sweet and lovable qualities of Rob whist also evoking an unsettling instability. His seemingly simple and confused persona is managed well and his transition believable. The set, designed by Anviere, allows Rob’s isolation and solitariness to be visualised as he watches the lives of others pass by before his eyes from a backroom.
Despite the strong central performance and several moments of humour however, Purnell’s black comedy has too many improbabilities to succeed dramatically; the actors have to get over too many obstacles for the play to ever really get going.