Writer: Stephanie Jacobs
Director: Hannah Price
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
Feeling like a bit of sci-fi combined with familiar strife, Again ticks some great boxes but leaves some important ones passed over.
The audience in the Trafalgar Studio’s downstairs space are voyeurs to a small family, injured by the parents’ divorce and struggling to keep it all together. On the male side, the father (Chris Larkin) has a new woman in his life which causes upset and complications to everyone else and the son, Adam, is an emotionally closed off poetry lecturer (Charles Reston). Natasha Little is the mother who has not yet found love again and occupies her time with gardening, while daughter Izzy (Rosie Day) is involved in a painful sounding relationship with Adam’s friend Boyd which mainly seems to involve her cheating and him crying.
Each damaged and hurt in their own ways, and each trying to make themselves feel better through relying on the family bond to not break when they have an outburst. Sometimes they do recognise they go too far, the impact is too great. Luckily for them, they all have the ability to, sort of, turn back time and have the conversation again – picking their way through the interaction with do-overs to give them a chance of better wording, more empathy, or just not to be so horrible to each other.
It’s an interesting concept. Exploring it lets the play impart the grand insight that actually, maybe each unhappy family is not, in fact, unhappy in its own way, just the expression of that unhappiness changes depending on what unit you’re in. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusion about how it works – do they do it consciously, do they remember the alternate conversations (sometimes it seems they do, sometimes not), does everyone else in the play’s universe have this power?
Timing in the piece too is a bit confusing – it seems to take place over several weeks but with no real indications in the scene changes, and some plot points being just dropped rather than brought to a natural conclusion.
This lack of conclusion is, ultimately, what hurts the play most. Performance wise, the two female characters are just fantastic – the set is nice and simple, and the rewinding transitions are handled smartly with some snazzy lighting from Sally Ferguson. Reconciling the huge moment that proves the play’s critical bust-up would have been far more satisfying than just abandoning it and papering over it. IN fairness, that’s a perfectly legitimate move as well – mirroring, perhaps, a realistic family dynamic. But if the aim was to create a sense of momentum, of continuity in the family it’s lost with an unresolved fight in a show that only lasts an hour and 15 minutes.
Some super performances, familiar family relationships which generate real empathy are high points. Confusing dynamics and timing questions, however, unfortunately, interrupt the ideas and their expressions
Runs until 3 March 2018. | Image: Contributed