One of those plays where things are going along quite amiably, if implausibly, before a critical incident comes to light which suddenly transforms the dynamic of the play, Dyl is a comedy that had me chortling away, though not always for the reasons its creatives intended. James (Scott Arthur) seems on edge, and in meeting Ryan (Laurie Jamieson) for the first time, their conversations are convincingly stilted and slightly awkward. This isn’t sustained, however, when Ryan later meets James’ mother Wendy (Joyce Greenaway) for the first time, and the trusty hand-holding that goes on all of a sudden had me giggling at what presumably was supposed to have been a poignant moment.
The gags are all there, though. With this effectively being a bachelor pad, the lads do as they please.
There’s Lucky Charms cereal for dinner, because they can’t be bothered to cook, and a Wendy house (Wendy, geddit?) is used as storage space for food and beer. James’ choice of vocation, being on an oil rig, with fortnightly shifts (“two weeks on, two weeks off”) is used well as a vehicle for Ryan to make interventions to other off-stage characters without James being able to stop him doing so. There’s hilarity in the minor quibbles about, for instance, leaving the bathroom in a similar state as when it was upon entry (or not), and choice of a television programme in the evening. It’s hardly deep and meaningful, but it is the sort of thing that is very relatable for many who have experienced shared living spaces.
It wasn’t immediately clear what was going on at times, and characters are introduced subtly. Ryan, unless I missed it, wasn’t name-checked until the second half – having been the first character to appear at the start of the show. All this is not problematic: indeed, it adds a level of interest to the show. I wondered who Dyl is in Dyl; it was made clear eventually, of course. The intrigue that the writing inspired is demonstrative of the play’s potential.
This is a debut play for its writer, Mark Weinman, and at the risk of sounding uncouth, it shows. Some of the characters’ exhibited behaviours are frankly bizarre, and not very plausible. An example: someone knows it’s not their business to get involved with a particular subplot, and then does so anyway. There was, overall, a bit too much shouting, as though that were the only way of expressing impactful emotion in Aberdeen. Only when Steph (Rose Wardlaw), James’ ex-girlfriend, arrives on the scene does the play indulge in some calm, rational thinking.
The set is well constructed and impressive for fringe theatre. Though the available space is used to its fullest extent, this does mean the sightlines are not perfect, and one particular monologue could be heard clearly enough but went unseen by a large section of the audience. The production could have been pacier and could be something of a tour de force if it was sped up and sliced down to a one-act play. No interval is specified in the script, just a series of fifteen scenes.
The sound effects, usually a bugbear for me, worked well here. If one of the messages in the musical Avenue Q was, “When you help others, you can’t help helping yourself,” Dyl makes the same point, from a different angle. “You’re hurting people by hurting yourself.” It’s an important message but its method of delivery here plunges a situation comedy into saccharine pleading. All things considered, I found this play amusing and inept in equal measure.
Review by Chris Omaweng
DO YOU HAVE TO HOLD YOUR BREATH? … CAN YOU DO THAT?
YEAH. ANYONE CAN.
NOT ME. CAN’T BE DOING WITHOUT BREATH. I’D HATE TO DROWN. I’M A BIG FAN OF AIR…
400 miles from home, James has started a new career as a rigger – two weeks onshore, two weeks offshore – existing between two very different spaces; and his daughter Dyl is with him in neither of them. Instead, he has Ryan, his live-in landlord – sarcastic, free-spirited and liable to say what he thinks before he thinks what he says. As James focuses on finding the answers from within himself, he risks losing the very relationships that can keep him on track.
A sad comedy, about isolation, the righting of wrongs and shouldering life’s responsibilities.
WRITTEN BY MARK WEINMAN
DIRECTED BY CLIVE JUDD
DESIGNED BY JEMIMA ROBINSON
LIGHTING BY WILL MONKS
SOUND BY GILES THOMAS
DRAMATURGY BY GUS MILLER
ASSOCIATE DIRECTION BY LILAC YOSIPHON
PRODUCED BY CAITLIN ALBERY BEAVAN FOR MOYA PRODUCTIONS
9th May – 3rd June
Old Red Lion Theatre
418 St John Street
London, EC1V 4NJ