The Last Time I Saw Caileigh – Baron’s Court Theatre, London

Reviewer: Jane Darcy

Writers: Victoria Sasso and Harun Cehovic

Co-creators: Matthias Moret and Helen Percival

The prospect of a piece devised by a group of RADA postgraduates promises something fresh and challenging. The Last Time I Saw Caileigh, however, is oddly conventional. Set in London in late 2022, the foregrounded issue is Caileigh’s decision to come out as non-binary. Gender fluidity may still be contentious, but as an issue, it’s mercifully normalised, in London theatres at least.

The Last Time I Saw Caileigh consists of short scenes in which three of Caileigh’s friends interrogate one another about the possible reason for their disappearance or re-enact a conversation they now think may have caused it. Each of the characters stands for a particular standpoint. Faruk (Harun Cehovic) is Caileigh’s loyal completely heterosexual boyfriend. He has left his native Bosnia and Herzegovina to follow them to London but feels conflicted when his mother pressurises him to come home, asking intrusively about when he and Caileigh are going to get married. We don’t get much cultural background, just a brief reference to some cooking ingredient that’s impossible to source in London.

Maureen, likeably played by Tiffany Elana King, is an older married friend whose role is to articulate a sort of cosy old-fashioned femininity, recalling conversations about periods, pregnancy and high heels. She repeatedly reassures Caileigh that they are pretty and that marriage and motherhood are the only path to follow. So shocked is Maureen to learn that Caileigh has come out as non-binary, misgendering them in the process, that she chucks Caileigh out of the house – another unconvincing moment in the play. The only other shocking moment, despite the long list of potential triggers, is when Maureen blithely brings up the dreadful story of her Aunty Alice. Alice somehow chose the wrong path and now lives alone. Is this meant to be funny?

The third of Caileigh’s friends is a gay man, Maxime, a completely improbable character. At one moment he is giggling with Caileigh about their taste in Disney princesses. The next he is viciously angry, hurling judgemental insults at Maureen and Faruk. The play gives no clue as to what we should make of him.

Caileigh is played by Victoria Sasso who shows the pain of coming out with great intensity, but their character’s utter self-absorption throws little light on the issue of gender. It’s simply not enough to quote a New York Times article about clownfish changing from male to female and expect this to do the thematic heavy lifting.

The Last Time I Saw Caileigh is billed as dark and funny, but in truth it’s neither. By the end, it just seems shallow and self-absorbed.

Run until 22 June 2024

Shallow and self-absorbed.

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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