Thursday, 1 September 2016

Longevity - Theatre Review

What: Longevity
Where: The Owl and Cat Theatre
When: 30 August - 2 September
Written and Directed by: Thomas Ian Doyle
Performed by: Brayden Lewtas, Fiona Scarlett, and Bee Townsend

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OWL AND CAT THEATRE

Thomas Ian Doyle is not only the writer of the brand new play Longevity, but he is also the Artistic Director of the Owl and Cat Theatre. Some may assume this gives his work privileged access, but the continued quality and originality of Doyle's writing speaks for itself in taking pride of place in this venue which only produces world premiers. His new play, currently being performed, is another outstanding example of his ability to focus in on the integral interactions of human beings with a laser beam of honesty and curiousity, with lots of intriguing twists and turns.

I haven't seen a lot of Doyle's work, but what he has a reputation for taking risks, breaking moulds, and having the audience step out of the box. His 2014 show Plastic Tree was performed over 12 days, and last year the show Bordello was a masterful success, putting the audience in the role of voyeur as they journeyed around the venue at will, discovering the fraught world of love, sex, and commerce.

Longevity is surprisingly conventional in its structure and presentation, but it packs a wallop you won't see coming. It is, essentially, a play about love - chasing love, falling in love, and living in love. This may sound banal, but there is nothing banal in what Doyle has created. Three people tied up in tangles, all talking about being honest with each other, and none of them managing to do so.

The most insightful moment in the play is when Juliet (Scarlett) tells Jess (Lewtas) 'Love isn't a photo in your pocket'. What she is talking about is love being a changing, morphing experience. It can't be held in one place, or one shape, or one moment, that sexuality and relationships are fluid and morphous. If only she would listen to her own words...

The actors are wonderful, which is demonstrated by Doyle's sparse staging. There is no set and only minimal props. There are no chairs for them to sit on, or tables for them to place things on or lean against. It is just the actors standing with each other, reacting to each other, and telling this story about fascinating relationships. 

This leanness of direction is the perfect compliment to Doyle's leanness of writing. There is no excess fat in this script. It is fragmentary and yet full at the same time. The only bit of augmentation is an ongoing video tape of a foetus evolving from mitosis through the development of the head, the heart, and the limbs. This biological process mirrors the development of the relationships of the story and is a simple, yet most effective compliment to what is happening in the world on the stage.

Doyle is truly a masterful and inventive theatre maker who knows his craft and is developing a unique and impressive portfolio. Cancel everything you have on tonight and go and see Longevity before it closes.

4.5 Stars



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