Writer: Lucy Foster
Director: Kayla Feldman
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
The reference to the lobster as a symbol of true love was introduced into popular culture more than 20 years ago by the sitcom Friends and, for those of a certain age, has become a humorous alternative for what sickly rom-coms and women’s magazines had termed ‘the one’. Lucy Foster’s new play, premiering at Theatre 503, takes Phoebe Buffay’s concept and applies it to a millennial setting as two young women struggle under the pressure of true love.
K and J meet by chance at a New Year’s Eve party and are soon infatuated with one another, despite their very different personalities. J is an eternal optimist, family-orientated and desperate for the ordinary contentment of married life, while K barely knows who she is and needs the freedom to be herself as well as someone’s partner. As their relationship evolves the happiness becomes harder to sustain, and they find that love isn’t always enough.
Foster’s play is a warmly engaging and really genuine anatomy of a relationship, charting the early excitement of sharing favourite places and past-times, to the forced behaviours and frustrations that begin to afflict people as life intrudes on their happiness. Lobster’s success is that this feels organic, effortlessly flowing between sweet intimacies and awkward confrontations as J and K try to navigate the pleasures and pitfalls of long-term love.
Using a part-narrated, part-dramatised approach, Foster has both characters talk directly to the audience, reflecting back on the things that occurred between them and occasionally correcting each other’s interpretation or memory of events. It is also a clever device that allows J and K to speak individually about their feelings for each other while revealing much about their own characters that helps to build a certain sense of foreboding which drives the show.
Foster has also created two entirely likeable young women who the audience can invest in from the start, so watching their joy at being together and the elements that draw them apart becomes very involving. Crucially, there is balance in Lobster which allows you to see the good side of both women, to will them to overcome the barriers between them, but also to understand why aspects of their personality would eventually cause their relationship to implode – in fact, they feel like real, complex and very normal women.
Alexandra Reynolds brings lots of the cute, cheesy humour to the role of J, a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and is never happier than when in a couple. Reynolds is bubbly and enthusiastic about everything, a carer, kind and devoted, willing to do almost anything to keep her relationship together which morphs from sweet to almost tragic with the subtlest switch later in the play.
Louise Beresford’s K is a self-confessed darker presence who finds comfort and support with J but craves the freedom and independence that adulthood provides. Beresford has a tough job to cut beneath the cooler exterior to make K sympathetic, which she does very successfully, drawing out an emotional undertone that emphasises the show’s focus on individual need versus the combined life of the couple.
At 90-minutes this is a nicely paced and well-controlled production, and director Kayla Feldman inserts moments of stillness to reinforce the emotional heft of particular moments, while never over-egging either the good or bad times. Arguably the tragedy that occurs two-thirds of the way through could feel more significant and it’s not until a few scenes later that it’s clear that this was a turning point, so signalling this a tad earlier would add just a touch more drive to the penultimate scenes.
Foster’s writing combined with two very skilled performances make Lobster a rewarding experience for an audience. Peppered with lots of lovely moments and plenty of humour, this show proves, as K says, that loving people is easy but liking them and accepting yourself with them is much harder. Finding your lobster is only the beginning.
Runs until: 20 January 2018 | Image: Ali Wright.