Captured – Old Joint Stock, Birmingham

Writer: Jenna May Hobbs
Director: Suzanna Ward
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

Sophie had it all with Isaac. She was his muse, photographic model and lover, living a celebrity lifestyle. So why did she simply walk away and disappear? Five years later, a baffled Isaac turns up on Sophie’s doorstep looking for answers. We join him in his quest and over the course of an evening together gradually learn her motivation to leave and the impact it has had on each. Can they go back? Should they?

Gabrielle Nellis-Pain is compelling as Sophie. Her conflicting emotions are clear as, for example, that secret smile shared only by lovers flits across her face as she glances at Isaac when she thinks he isn’t looking. She shows great strength of character as she defends her choice of new career to Isaac. Sophie’s twisted and painful journey is brought to intense life.

Liam Harkins is Isaac, the perfectionist artist. His portrayal takes our understanding on a journey, from finding him rather unsympathetic, to maybe warming to him before he reverts to type.

White Slate Theatre, the producer of Captured, consists of writer Jenna May Hobbs and director Suzanna Ward. They describe themselves as unveiling intimate and intricate human relationships and Captured does just that. Ward’s direction is taut and never rushed. Thoughts are allowed to form and mature before finding themselves vocalised; the characters dance around each other, looking for understanding – why did she leave? Why has he come? Hobbs’ successfully gets inside the heads of the characters and her dialogue has a poetic feel to it. However, this feeling of poetry can lead to some dialogue feeling a little stilted and sounding like it is being read rather than being a spontaneous response to circumstances.

Visually, the play forms an interesting puzzle. Jono Hadlow’s design of Sophie’s basement flat sits between realism and abstraction; parts of the set can move to give the sensation of the physical and mental space the characters inhabit becoming constricting or opening out as the evening progresses; parts double up as screens that let us see something of the nature of their old relationship and how they react now through the medium of Isaac’s photography – created, along with other visual effects, by Alex Powell. This is a particularly effective device. This was an early performance of a piece destined for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and some rough edges around transitions, most of which are smooth, are still evident, for example, when furniture is moved scraping across the floor.

One aspect does jar slightly: Isaac is, we infer, a highly successful photographer. However, when we see his camera, it is clearly an old budget 35mm model; this is not in itself an anachronism as his character may well prefer the effects one gets using this medium, but when we find the pair looking at its back at a supposedly digital screen the suspension of disbelief becomes difficult to maintain.

Currently on tour and, like spring, gradually making its way north from White Slate’s home in Canterbury to Edinburgh via Birmingham and York, Captured hits the emotions hard and is well worth making the required investment in the characters’ lives. Catch it if you can.

Runs until 2 July 2016 and on tour | Image: Contributed


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