Israeli writer Anat Gov’s play Best Friends won an award in her native country and was nominated for a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival in its English incarnation. Wisepart Productions are responsible for this staging, and the former at Edinburgh, which retains two of the original cast as well as the director Susannah Pack.
Set in Israel between the 1970s and the 1990s, the play centres on a trio of females in their teens and in their thirties simultaneously, thanks to the device of having two actors playing each character. What the piece tries to do is show us these girls forming their relationship and then later as women reuniting at the behest of Lali, who has some important news to divulge. This meeting inevitably ends in confrontation and the opening of old wounds as histories are related.
The main problem with Gov's writing is that it tells us an awful lot but shows very little - it’s a very descriptive piece with not enough action. And when we do get to see formative moments, they're skated over lightly without being fully explored.
The ‘youth’ scenes are framed with nostalgic music, but this and the costumes are all that places them in time for the audience – the language never feels different or dated in these scenes as it should. More fundamentally, we don’t see any moments where these three really bond, so it’s hard to understand why they like each other at all. They just seem to squeal at each other or argue.
Pack’s production is really a triumph of style over content. It’s extremely slick with its musical interludes and colour scheme (each character having a designated colour so we don’t get confused), and designer Kate Unwin has created a perfectly functional space which accommodates the many settings nicely. But more attention should have been paid to the characters’ inter-relationships – something more fundamental than having perfectly accurate period costumes.
That said, Gov does come up with some very witty one-liners and all the actors have the right measure of bubbly enthusiasm or cynical rhetoric (depending on their age) to keep you entertained for the full 90 minutes. It’s diverting, but ironically, in the end, you are in the same position as the characters, you just don’t feel like you know these people well enough.