BWW Review: ACTUALLY, Trafalgar Studios
Tom and Amber are a few months into their studies at Princeton. They both struggle to find their sense of self amongst the hustle and bustle of higher education. The pair couldn't be more different. Tom is a piano player with lots of sexual confidence, whereas Amber is an awkward English student who is a bit zany.
On a date - where both of them were admittedly very drunk - Amber believes that Tom 'almost raped' her. Her accusation is brought forward to the academic board, where a hearing ensues. Their actions leading up to the event are scrutinised to the minute detail - their entire existence is gets picked apart in a room full of strangers.
Using a mix of direct address, monologues and duologues, Anna Ziegler's chosen subject that's discussed is an interesting one. Consent, sexual responsibility and personal culpability are common topics of conversation in university settings. People's perceptions of events can differ as signals can be misread. When intoxication is involved, matters get even blurrier. 'Actually' is a complicated word. It's not 'no', but it isn't 'yes'.
The text is slow to get on its feet; the constant back and forth of dialogue gets a little predictable and stagnant. Once the story is in full swing, we're much more invested in the pair's story. Oscar Toeman's direction draws out some gorgeous subtle moments from Yasmin Paige and Simon Manyonda. The duo share delicious chemistry with one another and provide a highly watchable 95 minutes.
Where Ziegler's play struggles is in its stakes - or lack of. The drama isn't loaded with much tension; the scales never tip one way or the other. Because of this, you could be forgiven for losing interest in the narrative. Ziegler doesn't offer much of a solution to the issue, nor does she allow much time for debate and discussion.
Photo courtesy of Announcement Productions