Not About Angels

MATILDA WNEK gets happy about a play that is as well performed as it is crafted.

Ben Kavanagh ellie nunn imogen stubbs Joey Batey matilda wnek Not About Angels

ADC Theatre, 22nd-25th June, 10pm, £4-6

Directed by Imogen Stubbs and Ben Kavanagh


We are lucky to have the premiere of Imogen Stubbs’ new play Not About Angels at the ADC. There are only two nights left, so get down there and see it.

The freedom of not having to clear the stage in time for a lateshow was taken advantage of well, the set alive with lights and scattered curiosities. There was enough stuff to make it genuinely cluttered and chaotic, and it was substantial enough to feel like a place of permanence inhabited by two people, rather than made for them.  It was challenging to act in, but Nunn and Batey managed superbly, plucking items from the jumble with convincing delight.

The stage watches the pair inhabit a space whose laws are unknown to the audience, which we discover alongside Batey’s confusion. His entry- a disorientated newcomer- questions the place; Nunn’s reticence restricts him to child-like exploration, mounting and clambering, examining and playing.

The effect this had- the solidity of the place and its mystery- was to relax us into a focus on the changing interactions between the pair within it. How would they choose to inhabit it? What did their relationship mean as an isolated phenomenon?

Their dialogue was casual, unmannered and fluid. Batey’s characteristic erraticism became the foundation for seamless transfer between frustration and joy. Nunn had a lot of grace. I hope they’re in love or something.

But Not About Angels had content too for its form. In this suspended world Imogen Stubbs creates a place that doesn’t have to arrange things to allow for her existential dialogues to happen in a way that’s narratively justified. At first I wondered whether this wasn’t a bit lazy- create a mysterious world where two people are thrown together and forced to meander through life’s questions together and you’re bound to create dramatic interest.

But that wouldn’t be fair. For, while it’s impressive and rewarding to get this level of abstraction onto a stage, Not About Angels is not about challenging an audience. It questions, but it has answers and they are happy ones that depict a philosophy of care and freedom and vitality. They make you clap a lot at the end.

But this unchallenging nature is not a fault, because these questions are not the centre of the piece despite their gravity- it does not take itself so seriously.  Unlike many  plays that finely script a relationship between characters so that they can make these discussions take place, Not About Angels uses its addressing of these ideas to serve the depiction of a relationship. Nunn and Batey’s musing together enables and directs the development of their relationship, and that is the piece’s accomplishment.

It’s a lot of beautiful fun. See it and adore.