Writer: Jenna May Hobbs
Director: Suzanna Ward
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
Tom and Karen are a thoroughly modern couple, totally comfortable with each other and completely in love. Both professionals, their life story has been perfect so far, from their first awkward meeting and their shared journey through the stages of love as defined by scientists at Rutgers. In case you aren’t familiar with those and the hormones associated, we are helpfully given an introduction with examples from their story and those of their friends of those stages: Lust, Attraction and Attachment. And, of course, the unwritten fourth stage: Parenthood.
As we are treated to a detailed examination of their personalities, foibles and relationship, it becomes clear that there is a fundamental difference between them in outlook on one key facet: should they have children? One is desperate for parenthood, the other not so sure. Can their relationship survive this schism unscathed? As positions become entrenched, and under the crushing peer pressure, will either capitulate? And why is there such fear about what might befall them as parents – the answer is perhaps surprising when it is ultimately revealed. Can the relationship survive at all?
White Slate Theatre is composed of writer Jenna May Hobbs and director Suzanna Ward; their stated aim is to unveil ‘intimate and intricate human relationships’. And in Re:Production, their third production, they again succeed in spades, giving us a forensic and intimate look into this relationship
Hobbs’ dialogue is unstilted, filled with verisimilitude. As our protagonists introduce themselves, they speak in a natural manner that draws us in and makes us truly believe in the couple before us. Ward’s direction, complemented by excellent acting, is slick and well-choreographed with effective use of lighting and the few props on the minimalistic fringe set designed by the company. Mimed segments illustrating Tom and Karen’s days’ routines are particularly beautiful, both individually and in the way that they demonstrate different positions on the relationship’s path.
Catherine Nicholson’s Karen is convincing throughout her journey from fun-loving student to ambitious adult via her falling in love with Tom (Dan Burman). There is a real chemistry between Nicholson and Burman. Tom is affable, resourceful and keen to please. Each has their own agenda and the impacts these have on them are graphically drawn as the dynamic of their relationship shifts.
While Re:Production offers depth and insight, it retains its sense of humour, especially when we are treated to Tom and Karen’s take on their other painfully PC, middle-class thirty-something friends who have started families. However, there are minor flaws – although the quality of the acting helps overcome these – for example, the opening segment, in which they describe themselves, maybe outstays its welcome a touch while the discussion of those stages of love occasionally feels a bit like a lecture at which one feels guilty for not taking copious notes.
But at its heart, Re:Production retains a powerful voice, one examining the legitimacy of our choices and their impacts; a voice that deserves to be more widely heard and reflected upon.
Runs until 17 June 2017 and on tour | Image: Jake Cunningham