Review: Two Thirds

LILY POSNETT finds a mixed bag in this new student writing, but really likes the good bits.

Cambridge hats Homerton review Theatre Two Thirds

‘Two Thirds’ by Emily Layton (Directed by Emily Layton and Miranda Slade)

Homerton, Small Studio, 18/02/2015

Disorientated, stumbling to their seats from a corridor of dark curtain, the audience is brought into a woozy wonderland. A treasure-hunt of cigarette packets and empty wine bottles frames the stage as tipsy friends play charades: a game that rests upon silences, upon that thing you’re not allowed to say. Enriched by Matt Penellum’s stark and claustrophobic set, this extended opening proves a fitting introduction to ‘Two Thirds.’ A brave and perceptive piece of new writing by Emily Layton, the play gains its pathos from a painful secret which, regrettably, is muffled by a gratuitous amount of chatter.

The inaugurating party sees eight old friends giggle, drink, roll their eyes at each other and reminisce. On stage together, this large group has an authentic, mouthy energy, and a believable camaraderie that animates the frequent set-changes.

However, as the play progresses, it’s clear that a good fraction of the characters carry little narrative weight. They become — like the plethora of mugs and beer cans crowding a sideboard — inert, inoffensive clutter. For the most part, this is not due to any deficiency in acting ability, Robin McFarland in particular does a commendable job of making vacuous dickhead ‘Jamie’ an intriguing watch. Their storylines are simply too superficial and under-developed to command an audience’s attention.

It’s not long (although an unnecessary scene in a psychiatrist’s office makes it longer) before we see the relationship between Elle (Heather Fantham) and her brother George (Ben Spiro) begin to unravel around an undeclared act of violence. Fantham and Spiro both give engaging, nuanced performances, doing justice to the artfully layered subtext in their dialogues.

Definitely better than a third class.

Definitely better than a third class.

 

Particularly riveting is the moment Elle confronts George with his crime. Here, lines are both written and delivered with a loaded fragility— “Was she crying?”—that hypnotises even as it repels. What goes unsaid is allowed to speak with blistering clarity.

It’s a shame then that ‘Two Thirds’ gives audiences so little time to listen. As well as struggling to tell the difference between Katie (Julia Nielson) and Sofie (Matilda Wickham), and wondering why George’s psychiatrist (Angela Han) is slumped in a drunken stupor on the sofa, they have to grasp at elusive indicators of location and time.

Occasionally, the staccato shifts create a poised disorientation that unsettles, animates, and alludes to the increasingly disruptive fissures of George’s offence. However, this admirably achieved effect is often nullified when unsettlement slips into confusion. Another example of where ‘Two Thirds’ perhaps tries to do more than any play’s fair share.

Such moments of searing clarity in a complex and ambitious performance would benefit from realising its own strengths. Overall, ‘Two Thirds’ can be divided up into the passably watchable and the genuinely compelling, but the evident talent of all involved suggests that they are capable of something far more whole.

60%- A shaky 2.1. But showing first class promise.