Attic, a haunting, truthful reflection of that relationship you just can’t let go of? Or a play about emotion that should be boxed up and left in the loft?
Riddled with anxiety, the intimacy of the Kings Head Theatre is perfect in bringing the relationship of Leonie and Bay to centre stage and opening every aspect of their love to the scrutiny of the audience. Leonie, played by Phoebe Stapleton, is outspoken, honest, and not afraid to confront her ex-partner, Bay, played by Connor Harris as we are taken through the recollection of pivotal points in their relationship and brought back to view their effects in the present tense.
As an intimate two-hander play, the bond on stage between Stapleton and Harris is the key factor in making this production a success. Their handling of Hinsching’s text is impressive, with the pace being kept throughout and emphasis on linguistic choices, particularly early on in the numerical based text, quite satisfying to listen to and observe.
It is the same attention to detail, and the precision in the smallest of acting choices, that assist in taking the audience from location to location, along a timeline of their relationship, with a very minimal set allowing the sound design and actors to create each setting. Rather than scenes as such, the performance is delivered in pockets of time, like memories flitting in and out of the consciousness of the audience. The smallest change in character emotion, and the connection between Stapleton and Harris to ensure this happens simultaneously is perfect.
Director, Ed Theakston, has worked well with Stapleton and Harris to achieve nice details such as these and audiences will definitely find reactions and emotions within this crumbling, even failed, relationship which they will relate to.
Hinsching’s text is definitely more orientated towards the lead character of Leonie with her dictating the timeline from her own point of view. Bay, as a character, is there to play his role within the memories that Leonie is recalling about their relationship, but I feel there is room for development on his character within.
Out of the two leads, he is definitely the one who is not struggling as much with their break up, almost appearing to pin the split on her at times. Instead, we are seeing through the eyes of Leonie, who is taken to breaking point in trying to cope with the break up which keeps you on edge throughout, anxious, and unknowing what is really happening inside her head. We see her pass through lusting after Bay, to hating him, and sometimes to not even being able to say what she wants. All emotions that anyone who understands relationships can find some truth in and will probably recognise from any breakup – particularly if you still hold any love for an ex.
The depth of these emotions is portrayed well throughout the play, however, I feel this can be pushed a little and although the pace is essential, I think allowing some slowing down in a couple of scenes throughout would perfect the audience’s understanding of Leonie and Bays relationship. Moments such as hanging over the edge of a building top could really become a heart-in-mouth moment if stretched a little further. It could be argued that Bay no longer holds that love for Leonie, or wouldn’t mind if he didn’t have to put up with this anymore, but if he is meant to hold love for her, I think this a great opportunity for Harris to show how Bay would be feeling if the girl he has always loved could momentarily be gone forever.
Extending on this a little, the same detail paid to the text early on in the production could easily be applied later with Stapleton’s monologue, reiterating the anxieties and toils of a relationship gone wrong, or going through a breakdown. A harrowing speech, that could benefit a little from some movement, or physicalisation of the words she is speaking. Theakston, Harris and Stapleton are definitely capable of building on the scenes and text as throughout there are great moments, even touches of physical theatre, and I think focussing on the deeper memories, will assist in lifting the comedic moments that glimmer throughout.
Hinsching’s text, as a debut play, shows huge promise for the future and I do think the creative team and cast are onto a great production which is highly relatable – particularly in young relationships. Theakston’s direction shows an attention to detail in working with his cast that a venue like The Kings Head has highlighted and allows the audience to stay engaged. Stapleton and Harris play beautifully off of each other displaying a real connection, understanding of each other’s bodies, and reliability on the other that allows the text to come effortlessly and portrays their feelings with realism and sincerity.
Attic is next showing at The Kings Head Theatre on Sunday 2nd July and Monday 3rd July. Step into the minds of Leonie and Bay and travel through their relationship. If you’re looking for a drama that takes an honest and heart-wrenching look at what happens when love doesn’t quite connect at the right time for two people, then grab your tickets and head up into the attic.
Review by Adam Wollerton
Attic, is an intimate two-hander that invites you to follow the journey of Leonie and Bay as they relive their dangerous, boundary-pushing relationship in one night. By turns understated and visceral, Attic examines the dark, animalistic and unconventional sides to love between two people who never quite find their way back together.
Director Ed Theakston last year co-directed the Best Play award-winning Bit of Sunshine (LOST Theatre One Act Festival) which following on from a hit Edinburgh Fringe run transferred to London’s Theatre503. He is directing a cast of fellow East 15 graduates, Phoebe Stapleton (Lavinia in Dottir – Courtyard Theatre, Alice in Alice Unhinged – Pleasance) and Connor Harris (Nikola Tesla in Tesla – the Alchemist Theatre Company).
Written by Meriel Hinsching. Directed by Ed Theakston.
With Phoebe Stapleton and Connor Harris.
Sunday 25 & Monday 26 June
Sunday 2 & Monday 3 July
King’s Head Theatre
115 Upper Street
London, N1 1QN