Writer: Gerard Adlum
Director: Sarah Finlay
Reviewer: Rachel Rafferty
This stimulating drama concerns a turbulent interaction that happened one starry night. Against the backdrop of a momentous galactic phenomenon, two very damaged people, both harbouring the wounds from their grief-ridden pasts, unite fatefully.
The setting is an overgrown back garden in small town Ireland. It is Judy’s birthday and a gift-wrapped package arrives, unexpectedly delivered by the nerdy Bob. After an awkward opening exchange a rapport develops, their opposing personalities both competing against, and complimenting each other. Written by one of the actor’s, and based on a composition by the company, this bittersweet two-hander is captivating throughout.
Bob is deadpan and Judy defensive. They question each other, converse, play games, and dance. Their interaction is periodically punctuated by the intermittent static, and music of the radio, whose presenter is chronicling a groundbreaking celestial event that is taking place at the same time.
Gerard Adlum’s Bob is suitably wooden and obsessive; his angular movements, monotone vocalization and set expression were completely believable. His was a sensitive evocation of the complexities of the type of man whose repressed emotions, limited social skills and seemingly one-dimensional personality hide a deeper pain. While Nessa Matthews’ Judy was the perfect foil, she characterized this impassioned, lost young woman with a very heightened performance.
Engaging as it is, this piece is not without its flaws. Primarily, this has to do with the script, which could benefit greatly by being tightened up in parts. Some of the material was repetitious and appeared to make the same point again and again so that it became didactic. Also the performance in parts veered into melodrama. For example, Judy’s sporadic paranoia, and her panic attack did not come across as fully plausible. Nessa Matthews is an actress with a wonderful stage presence, who also has an innate sense of embodiment of the character. She captured the changing emotions beautifully. Most especially facially, the palate of expressions playing across her face throughout the interaction served as a sympathetic illustration of a very wounded and angst-ridden woman. Notwithstanding all the above, her presentation at times swerved somewhat into caricature. To be fair, it is very difficult to accurately portray the emotional roller-coaster personality of someone who has been extremely traumatized by their past. However, what would work better would be a slight toning down of Judy’s ‘dramatic’ moments, and a more internalized approach to the portrayal would really authenticate it more.
For all that, Bob &Judy is nevertheless an interesting and memorable piece, well worth seeing. Not least because of its sensitivity and perceptiveness in touching on the taboo subject of mental illness, and its querying of difficult, topical issues like guilt, grief, life and death.
Photo by Ste Murray. Runs till 8th August.