I read recently about the Vicar of Bearstead, who returns a £100 deposit paid by couples whose marriage service begins within twenty minutes of the published start time, but retains it if the service starts later than this, distributing it between the bell-ringers, vergers, choristers and organist.
Road traffic incidents and other unavoidable situations are taken into consideration. It’s a policy that someone like Laura (Elina Alminas) probably wouldn’t have a problem with: taking to the stage dressed in a bridal gown while the house lights are still up, the usual hellos and welcomes are dispensed with. “Come on! Hurry up!” is one of Laura’s less crude remarks to audience members who entered the theatre space, turned into a wedding venue, after she did. To be fair, it is indeed highly irregular to arrive after the bride.
The play eventually comes full circle in its departure from convention, but for the most part, there’s a lot of talk about how marriage is seen by Laura as the path to happiness. Whether this was because of her upbringing or external pressure to conform to a certain lifestyle where, to misquote the song, sisters ain’t doing it for themselves, isn’t entirely clear. What is infinitely more obvious is that ‘Johnny’, the bridegroom, is nowhere to be found – Laura goes as far as interrupting herself to call “the bastard” but is only answered by a voicemail. Again.
This, then, is a dark comedy, with plenty of interaction with the audience, who assume the roles of guests at this wedding that will not now take place. But as Laura is at pains to point out, everything has been paid for, so we may as well enjoy the disc jockey’s music, and there’s also the matter of cutting the cake. Oh, and there’s a photographer.
Not wanting to just talk about herself until carriages at midnight (or whenever the wedding was supposed to have ended – for the purposes of this production, it is to be assumed the venue for the ceremony is the same as the one for the reception), Laura redirects her fury from Johnny towards the ‘best man’, and other guests, spilling the beans about various people in a game of ‘truth or dare’ in which the only option is ‘truth’, every time. It’s a hoot. My own response to assertions made against ‘me’ was one of those ‘first thing that comes into my head but please, please don’t put your foot in it’ moments. Nobody approached me to complain afterwards so I assume I did okay, and Laura’s ability to almost seamlessly incorporate whatever replies she received was a sight to behold.
Does it all end happily for her in the end? I’m still not sure about that, and not just because I don’t want to give too much away. The guests happily clap along to a rendition of ‘I Will Survive’, which suggests a message of strength and defiance, but given this is the third time she’s been stood up on the big day (by different men), can a leopard really change its spots? Either way, I liked the ambiguity, and it’s a great production, compelling and intense, with a touch of fantasy and absurdism thrown in. A thoroughly convincing performance, equally powerful and sincere.
Review by Chris Omaweng
This performance was partially created as a response and rejection of the stereotypical roles women are most often offered in film and on stage. FemaleArts called it an ‘unflinching look at woman in the throes of ‘having an emotional episode’. It sends across a feminist message that stands against the world, where women are brought up to believe that there is nothing else to life except marriage. Elina is coming from Eastern European background, where this is still a very predominant topic.
It is the day of Laura’s marriage and the house is full of guests, but the groom Johnny is nowhere to be seen. Will he come?
The protagonist of the play has a breakdown when her groom doesn’t arrive to the wedding because they had an argument the night before. As a result Laura looses herself completely and overdoses on booze and antidepressants whilst exposing her vulnerability to the guests. The audience will experience Laura’s story from the hysteria and anger to the helplessness and failure, reaching epiphany towards the end. The audience will take part in the events that will unravel on the day of the wedding and will be the actual guests with whom Laura will be sharing her story.
Expect an intimate experience of the wedding gone wrong. Laura is going to reach out to people and beg for compassion and sympathy but instead will fail in her need to succeed. However, the journey that she will make and the things that she will establish in her encounter will change her priorities and life entirely. In her debauched self-rediscovery she seeks a clearer understanding of the future and finally realises that she has been wrong all this time: ‘everything happening now is just the beginning’.
265 Camden High Street, London NW1 7BU
Saturday, 13th January, 9PM