In a small room above the Bread and Roses, a stage sits in between two sets of chairs. A single actress sits on the stage in a hoodie and jeans as the audience enters, muttering to herself and appearing agitated. The stage is simply set with a sofa and a chair.
Necessity opens with a great revelation: our lone actress, ‘T’, has had a relationship with an unknown male and has had his child, but she wants nothing more to do with him. She reads aloud the letter that she has written to him; that is the last we hear from her.
The letter she has written is accidentally delivered to the wrong house, which sets off a series of events that lead all of our characters thinking carefully about their relationships and secrets are revealed as tensions rise between the characters on stage.
At first glance, Mish and Patrick, played by Cerys Knighton and Tim Cook, are a perfectly normal couple. Mish is unemployed and Patrick works in the city, they live in a one bedroom flat and can’t wait to move to a bigger place. After a hesitant start, the cast relax into their roles and the banter between the couple becomes fun to watch. Their sweary squabbling is interrupted by the arrival of Vicky Winning’s stuck-up neighbour, Veronika, and suddenly the play-arguments become much more real. Knighton’s performance throughout is overwhelming as she takes us through a broad range of emotions, never missing a beat and always delivering her lines with pathos. In amongst the silliness of their earlier conversation are some very real moments which genuinely tug on the heartstrings and it is hard not to feel sorry for Mish as Patrick blindly ignores her obvious inability to cope.
As their roles flip, we feel more and more frustration on behalf of Mish as Patrick continues to blunder blindly through a failed BBQ with the neighbours. When Veronika’s husband Stephen, played by Will Anderson, casually flirts with Mish, the audience finds themselves willing her on and wanting her to just have a bit of fun.
It is also very hard to like Veronika, which is a testament to Winning’s performance; she plays a character whose sole role is to be disliked, but she does it without being a caricature, convincing us that her character is a very unhappy woman, trapped in an unhappy situation.
Putting the audience on either side of the stage could have presented some performance challenges, however, this did not prove to be a problem for the cast and the production was skillfully directed to ensure that the audience always felt part of the action. The simple set meant that it was easy to reimagine the space as a living room, garden or patio depending on what the scene required and lighting was used to donate a change of scene or the passage of time.
The play ends with a satisfyingly circular conclusion, with some unexpected twists, however, early on, I felt it could do with a bit more pace. The cast is strong, the script is well-written and there were some genuinely funny and emotive moments throughout.
Review by Cat Lamin
Mish and Patrick have withstood redundancy, career dissatisfaction and the housing market, to settle into the tiny starter home that is their happily ever after. But then a letter arrives creating an impossible decision for the couple, one that forces them to confront the legacies of things left unsaid and what it is they really need.
Necessity is a compelling new play, by writer and director Paul Macauley, about our need to hold onto ideals and what we create in the world when our needs go unmet.
Broken Silence Theatre presents Necessity – written & directed by Paul Macauley
Tuesday 31st January to Saturday 4th February 2017 at 7.30pm
& Saturday 4th February matinée at 3pm