Review - These Quicker Elements
Memory. That intangible thing that makes us who we are and something that this play intimately challenges. At a run time of 30 minutes this adsorbing monologue had me lost between the emotion and trying to peer through the slowly unravelling meaning. This at times did feel as though it were a battle between text and actor but it was well managed in allowing it to ebb and flow between the two.
This show made use of the virtual format by turning the frame of the camera into the characters' mirror. Allowing us to be let in on the private life of what we may say to ourselves in the mirror. By placing the audience as if they were the reflection of the character it allows for an immediate emotional connection and a forced introspection that comes with looking at your own face staring back at you.
The show starts in a very positive place with man in the mirror playing and an upbeat Lana played by Marianne James dancing along before forgetting the words. Soon things start to unwind as prompt-like writing on the mirror starts Lana upon the journey of her relationship. These prompts create a sense from the outset that something is amiss. The play goes on to tell the story of a relationship plagued by negativity which grows into violence.
The theme of memory unravels in the climax of the show, drawing from something akin to dissociative amnesia due to the traumatic event experienced. With the audience finally realising that she has written the prompts to try make sense of the fading fragments of what she can recall, the show takes an unexpected turn. A loop is implied. We see the moment on Lana's face where the last 30 minutes she spent deconstructing her experiences are lost and she returns to pleasantries about her new coat and that song she had forgotten the words to. It gave a sense of inescapabilty from the trauma and that we only exist as the sum of our memories.
Lighting, set, and costume were all stripped back to a minimal naturalistic setting. Emotions and words each felt more pronounced against this backdrop as the focus was drawn in. The physical space relative to the camera was used to great effect to moderate both pacing and the comfort of the audience. The moments of close intimate thought contrasted with the animated step back disconnecting Lana in that moment from the audience and into herself.
As a one shot monologue it allowed the actor and their direction to shine through and for a sense of flow to be developed with no cuts to interrupt. Unfortunately the editing of the title card as well as the music was a little heavy handed as audio levels were hurriedly brought down for lines and returned with the same speed. Starting the show with this was unfortunate but it had little effect on the rest of the piece.
Using imagery of light, as would usually be done physically on stage, the words created layers of meaning through a purely imagined visual setting. The particularly strong image of the silhouette of the partner, which is first seen as a mysterious, intriguing and revered-like figure, returns towards the end of the show, now with feelings of threat and violence. This is a great reflection, through words, of the techniques that lighting designers use; the ability for a lighting state to change meaning given the context of the plot, as much as the words the actors are saying. George Rushton has created something moving to watch and steeped in imagery and nuance.
Overall the show was an emotional journey that I would urge anyone to go on. I am sure that depending on your own position in life you will gain something different from this piece. The realisation of this script to screen was insightful and allowed the strengths of the script to shine while also adding its own nuance through direction. On the text itself I can already see 13 year old me groaning at my English teacher making me find every reference or piece of imagery within it. Despite this, the slow unfolding of the themes and well-balanced pacing created a truly engaging monologue. Most interestingly, I have an urge to watch it again in the future and see if it resonates differently.
Written by - H. Dovell