There are a lot of themes and topics brought out in Torn Apart (Dissolution) that it doesn’t, in the end, seem to be about anything in particular. It could be about feminism, but the male characters are subjected to the same circumstances as their lovers. It could be about fate, but in each of the three situations presented, there are opportunities for characters to steer their futures. It could even be a political and social commentary, what with issues regarding the deployment of the Soldier (Charlie Allen), the time-limited visa that will soon enough see Casey (Christina Baston) return ‘back home’, and for Holly (Sarah Hastings), difficulties arising from preparing to ‘come out’ to her family, particularly her own daughter.
It punches above its weight, for sure, but in doing so also comes across as one of those plays that has brainstormed initial ideas and retained all of them until it is seen by the paying public, without the ruthless cutting and editing needed to make the show really flow and come together. Mind you, the character development is there – and the play portrays opposite-sex love just as convincingly as same-sex love. The latter is particularly palpable to begin with as the relationship is unmistakably blossoming; quite early on, even before the first vestiges of cracks appearing between the couples, it becomes clear that the show holds to the old adage that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
The staging is good, but not perfect. Performed in the round, the show does well to give all sections of the audience more or less fair sightlines. But at times it is like watching a tennis match, with couples in conversation at opposite ends of the performance space. A lot of movement accompanies music in most of the scene changes (or is it that the recorded music accompanies the movement?), and it was not always clear to me what was happening, other than a general display of distress and discomfort.
The play has an intriguing narrative, and the way in which the three seemingly disparate stories start overlapping is an innovative way of demonstrating how each set of circumstances that a given couple faces is unique, and yet there are almost universal commonalities that most people can relate to in some form.
There were moments when I felt like I was watching The X-Factor and finding out about people’s ‘back stories’, what the community in which they grew up was like, and details about immediate relatives. At one point such was the concerted effort to establish a link between current adult behaviour and previous childhood events that I began to wonder whether some sort of Freudian psychoanalysis was being attempted.
There are ebbs and flows. Occasionally the silences when characters are unable or unwilling to verbally respond, for reasons that would be giving too much away, are a tad too long and awkward to fully maintain interest in proceedings. The show is, in a word, Pinteresque. Elsewhere, a subject matter is introduced and then recklessly abandoned – why, then, raise the point at all? An example: Alina (Nastazja Somers) merely mentions misogyny in the society of her home country, and yet there is probably enough about that alone to put into a play in its own right.
Completing the list of characters is Erica (Monty Leigh) and Elliott (Elliott Rogers), both of whom, in very different ways, believe themselves to be acting in the best interests of their lovers, but are really being
more harmful than helpful. Not for nothing did I have the song ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ by Queen in my head.
The excellent actors are denied a curtain call (it is a mistake, in my humble opinion, to deny the audience that opportunity to show their appreciation), leaving me unsure whether the play had indeed finished. I suppose that’s a metaphor for the show – the stories are incomplete, the characters still have a lot of life yet to live. This play is a reasonable attempt at depicting the difficulties of life in a relationship, and there are lessons for others to learn from these characters.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“I fell in love once. With the wrong woman”
This is a love story. A love story set in three different times and three different bedrooms…
West Germany, Bremen, the early 1980s. The universities and cafés are full of young people who escaped from the East, the bars are full of American soldiers. Alina, a Polish literature student, bumps into one of them.
London, 1999. The turn of the century. Elliott, a young chef is dating Casey, an Australian backpacker. Whilst eating Indian food and listening to RHCP, Elliott talks to Casey about his orphanage and his love for her. She listens knowing that, sooner or later, her Visa will run out.
London, now. Holly married a perfect man, had a child and achieved her white picket fence fantasy but this is in the past now, for she has fallen in love with Erica, and she will do anything to rationalise her feelings.
TORN APART (DISSOLUTION) puts women centre stage and deals with issues such as feminism, immigration, male repression, fate, homosexuality, but above all it explores the most painful aspects of human conditioning.
ALINA: Nastazja Somers
SOLDIER: Charlie Allen
ELLIOTT: Elliott Rogers
CASEY: Christina Baston
HOLLY: Sarah Hastings
ERICA: Monty Leigh
DIRECTOR: BJ McNeill
PRODUCER: No Offence Theatre
DESIGNER: Szymon Ruszczewski
SOUND/LIGHT: Sebastian Atterbury
By BJ MCNEILL
The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street
London N1 1RL