GUEST CRITIC LUKE JONES AGAIN – BAFFLED BY MODERN BIRTHWAYS, SOLDIERS BRAVELY ON AND WISHES IT HAD WORKED
Immediately this play had the whiff of a concept. This is a shoebox theatre, and the tiny clearing at the front (stage?) was occupied by only a plain white kitchen. Suli Holum, who performs the piece on her lonesome, appears in the audience (strange) but paints over the blanks with the kind of oomph only an American can muster.
A joint effort from writer/director Deborah Stein and performer/writer Suli Holum, the play is largely dull argument, but with a thrilling story poking in where it could. Broadly it is a story about a woman, who for various scientific reasons I can’t remember, has a son who is not hers. She gave birth but it isn’t her DNA in him. It’s vaguely common. Apparently.
The story is emotionally gripping and the characters are well drawn. A garishly accented American coffee lady/narrator is nicely cartoonish and pronounces ‘chest’ as ‘cheyesta’. Every syllable is a new invention.
The mother is only just about there; angry and sharp, cold yet a bit weepy. And the son is freakishly good. Suli pulls this shy yank student (think pre-crime Bieber) literally out of nowhere and it is thrilling.
Unfortunately here ends the praise. The script veers from witty to shitty and loses sight of the actual nub of interest – the story – far too often in favour of lecture. It is also regularly far too cerebral, talking about Darwin and DNA instead of people or experience. It also goes so meta for so many minutes that all we’re left with is jokes about how the taps don’t work because it’s a set. This feels like filling in the gaps for the boring science. As does the trippy pseudo-scientific projections which at first have a point, but end up just facilitating what looked like, and has the intellectual fibre of, the Galaxy song bit from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. You know the bit where Eric Idle comes out of the fridge into the Milky Way. This happens, although with far less substance.
It is a shame because the central performance was excellent and the lost story had the beginnings of something solidly dramatic. Unfortunately it throws all this to gawp at the great unknown / some facts I first heard on QI circa 2009.
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