Writer and Director: Justen Bennett
Reviewer: Lettie Mckie
As this billing from its current premiere at the Blue Elephant Theatre would suggest The Fantastical Adventures of [not] being with You was a one act play with a lot of potential to be good. A gender-neutral script written by Justen Bennett was conceived around the idea that ‘people are people, whatever their sexual orientation’ and in another production the rôles could have been taken by actors of either gender. Highlighting the complexities of this controversial topic this play could have delivered a simple and heart felt message about every couple’s right to sexual freedom.
Two major barriers stood in the way of this laudable goal. The first and most disappointing was very weak writing with little lyricism or subtlety. The playwright introduced a stream of interestingly surreal ideas and imaginative concepts based around the ‘adventures’ of his couple, but lacked the finesse needed to transform these ideas into the free flowing and heartfelt dialogue required. The result was unfortunately a script that simply didn’t hold together and which was frequently dull and turgid.
The other major reason for this play’s failure was that although the actors (Ryan Wichert and Max Wilson) were energetic and enthusiastic, both performances were deeply flawed. Wichert was particularly irritating speaking in a cod English ‘actorish’ style and Wilson was too visibly nervous on stage to be entirely believable.
The main problem with the performances was that althoughthey interacted very well with the audience and developed strong physical chemistry on stage their actual characters remained woefully underdeveloped. At the end of the play they still had not really revealed themselves to the audience, they were very much still actors in a space. These weaknesses coupled with the at times cringe worthy and impossible to follow script meant any real emotion they were able to stir up was quickly lost in a stream of meaningless sentences blandly delivered.
The actors (and indeed the play) were strongest in the silence between the dialogue. In these moments the glimmer of a much more charming story about their relationship began to show through. For his play to succeed Bennett needed less concepts, less words and far more real human emotion in order to let his good idea for a story breath. As it was it was disappointingly boring.