Us – White Bear Theatre, London

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

 Writer: David Persiva

Director: David Frias-Robles

 Emotions run high through the first few minutes and the last half hour of the relationship shown here in David Persiva’s snappy debut play. In a little over an hour we’re given a broad sweep of their three year coupling, voyeuristically spying on them at their most vulnerable shared moments, and horribly recognising snips of conversations we’ve all had either in the first flush of love or as it comes to a close.

The unnamed Man (played by Persiva) and Woman (Naoimh Morgan) are not meant to be everyone. But their energy and awkwardness will drive an empathetic response in anyone who’s ever had so much as a flirtatious conversation. From their chance meeting at a house party the pair feel fated to become easily entangled then painfully broken apart. Who hasn’t had a breakup then looked back to self-tortuously identify that all the signs were there?

Through this, there are some punchy insights into relationships and human connection> Apparently these two f**ked each other “because we were f**king ourselves”, showing everyone projects an idealised version of the other person onto them. Which is great right up until the point when reality emerges and you’re three years into a relationship and navigating shared ownership of a sometimes vegan cat.

Persiva’s writing is sometimes really quite technically elegant. There’s a deftness to the interactions that shows in a succinct, harmonious and natural way the character similarities (quick to misunderstand, a certain keenness and vulnerability) and the clear reasons they should not be together. His dialogue is also generally fantastic; naturalistic, based in reality with a feature made of Morgan’s Northern Irish idioms and accent. It flows well until it takes a dip for her philosophical monologue moment about possibilities and talking, just talking.

Both Persiva and Morgan are a joy to watch, feeling fully invested and absorbed by these roles. The break up scene is tough going: emotional, cinematic. It’s sometimes in danger of being laid on a bit thick, but it works. In the White Bear’s small space, the anguished shouts of Persiva are somehow magnified to monstrous level, and Morgan’s relative calmness in the calamity is absorbing.

All staged within Maeve Reading’s detailed living room set, it’s a drama that maps the domestic and emotional worlds of these two with real sympathy and charisma. It’s close and intense at times, but it’s a short play about falling in love then breaking up so it should be considered a job well done.

Runs until 19 February 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Close and intense

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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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