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Transgression: Life in the Aftermath of the Eocene

It is fairly common knowledge, I would have thought, that therapists are often in need of therapy themselves, and not necessarily because they are not very good at what they do, but rather because they are dealing with other people’s traumatic experiences on a regular basis, such is the nature of the job. This in turn requires therapists themselves to have coping mechanisms to maintain their own mental and psychological wellbeing. The issues that come up in therapy would be a play in itself: here, the audience is either treated or subjected to just one client (Zara Hadeshian), who makes repeat visits – as people do – to therapist Hannah (Abigail Moore).

Transgression: Life in the Aftermath of the Eocene
Transgression: Life in the Aftermath of the Eocene

The therapy is a subplot, and a rather disjointed one at that, to what is essentially a family drama, somewhat implausible in some of its details but nonetheless full of dramatic tension, which ebbs and flows throughout. Hannah’s husband, or rather ex-husband, Tom (Jonathan Hansler), is also a therapist, but of a different kind. I am not, alas, any more conversant about what the various sorts of therapists are having seen this show, suffice to say Tom likes to conduct what he calls ‘dramatherapy’. He even gives an example of this, Hansler’s Tom brilliantly and hilariously incorporating, during a moment of reflection, an emergency siren from the main road outside the venue.

Tom starts seeing Addie (Alexandra Etudor), the latter being a generation younger, provoking a culture clash of sorts, manifesting itself mostly if not entirely in microaggressions. For example, Tom needs his jacket, so he tells her to get it. Addie can’t see why he can’t just get it himself – a fair point, as he does so without difficulty, proving very easily that he might well be an older man but he is far from over the hill. Hannah, meanwhile, has her own skeletons in the closet, and completing the set of on-stage characters is Graham (Bruce Allinson) – at the risk of giving too much away, he’s Hannah’s son, with Tom raising him as his own (or so he says), and there’s no indication that Graham believes anyone other than Tom is his father in every sense of the word.

None of the characters, alas, is particularly likeable, which made it difficult to root for anyone. A divided set, comprising (amongst other things) two couches (was there a half-price sale on at a furniture store in the venue’s vicinity?), one in Tom’s old place with Hannah and the other in his new place with Addie, allows for swift scene changes, at least by pub theatre standards. The lighting was a bit overzealous on occasion but otherwise did a good job of differentiating one home from another.

It’s not necessary for every narrative strand to be tightened by the curtain call, though this production ends on several cliffhangers, which I suppose allows for some discussion on the way home as to what might have transpired next. So much is unresolved, however, that the play feels unfinished. As I have often observed, it is better to leave the audience wanting more than to outstay one’s welcome, but in this case, it feels as though everything has happened and yet nothing has happened, and nobody seems any closer than they were at the beginning of the play to making a better life for themselves.

At least the cast are very convincing. I enjoyed Zara Hadeshian’s rambling therapy patient, eliciting something of a power struggle with Hannah – it wasn’t the only love-hate relationship going on in an ambitious and unwieldy production.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s the 1990s and the societal revolution to smash the nuclear family is on the horizon. A psychoanalyst battles against the demise of established traditions, while younger women debate pregnancy and the relevance of a father’s name on a birth certificate. It’s all an uphill campaign to rattle the patriarchy until a father and son face an unthinkable quest. When the dust settles a new birth order awaits future generations.

As sheer entertainment, Transgression is a ferociously funny play underpinned by intellect and the conflicts and desires that make going-it-alone a viable contender to romantic coupling and all its compromises.

Playwright Loretta Monaco is a writer who enjoys exploring the witty aspects of seemingly complex and fraught-ridden relationships.

Carnyx Production Presents
Transgression
Written by Loretta Monaco
Directed by Bryan Oliver

Transgression
16th – 27th January 2024
https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/

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