DramaReviewSouth West

Be Brave and Leave for the Unknown – Drum Theatre, Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Writer:  Catherine Dyson
Directors: Cassie Friend and Rebecca Loukes
Reviewer: Joan Phillips

When Chris and Fleur first meet at a photo shoot they seem like the most unlikely people to end up as a couple. Chris is a gifted concert pianist. He is self-conscious, awkward, stiff, with hints of obsessive compulsive disorder. Fleur is a war photographer who is used to danger and putting herself in positions where she is not in control – war zones, parachute jumps. She can’t even get him to dance when they meet at a  disco.

tell-us-block_editedBoth seem to have the world at their feet as their careers take off. But Chris needs help, He has stage fright and, with not even his agent around to listen to him, he succumbs to his anxieties and turns to teaching instead. Fleur continues in her job, unaffected by the horrors of witnessing war first hand until the couple’s family tragedy brings their worlds crashing down. The delicate balance and support that their relationship depended on is thrown awry. Both struggle to find a way through their grief.

Despite the promising set-up this production fails to live up to its title. Any investigations of the couple succeeding or failing in pulling themselves through their tragedy are lost in this disconnected and random production. There is much time spent on the couple’s quirkiness, and, while the breakdown is made obvious as they hit rock bottom, there is little exploration of their emotional deterioration or why they were so vulnerable in the first place.

Philippa Hambly and Will Dickie play the main characters. Both put in some moments of very physical theatre. Hambly’s exaggerated long fingers and large hands make him an ideal Chris. But with little material to fully expand their characters, their performances suffer from the disjointed faults in the main storyline. Hambly’s occasional diversion into the world of an oily motivational speaker encouraging audience members to be ‘bravist’ only adds to the disorientation and magnifies what is missing in the principal story rather than hinting at what the couple need.

Technical staging in this production deserves credit. Light and sound by Aideen Malone and Andrew Dawson respectively are instrumental in recreating the war zones, concert buzz and domestic atmosphere. Tina Bicat’s set, a glowing moon as a backdrop, and on stage, a flexible table serving, among others, as a tank, bed, piano and supermarket checkout, worked reasonably well.

Be Brave and Leave for the Unknown is devised by Red Cape Theatre. Five years ago this company staged 1 Beach Road at this same venue. This was a thoughtful and tender insight into the cruelty of dementia and its devastation on relationships.  Full of allusions to tides ebbing away at people’s minds and grains of sand falling between the cracks in foundations, the metaphors and message are hauntingly inescapable and evocatively made. This frustrating production lacks this coherence.

Runs until 11 February 2017 | Image: Contributed

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