BWW Review: AGAIN, Trafalgar Studios
Again, written by Stephanie Jacob, is a short one-act play about a family reuniting after an undefined amount of time apart. How will the relationships play out when they're all back in the bosom of the home they shared together for so many years?
Billed as comedy and drama, there are certainly elements of both, but for me the piece falls into a no man's land between the two. The comedy didn't produce the laugh count to make me feel like I'd had a fun night, and the drama wasn't intense enough for the tale not to be whisked out of my head by the cold February London air.
That said, there are some enjoyable aspects to the play, in particular the performances of Natasha Little as mother Louise and Rosie Day as daughter Izzy (without whom I'd be inclined to drop a * from my rating).
Little's performance is pleasantly nuanced; a mum finding herself trying to keep the peace whilst inwardly despairing about the antics of her offspring and feeling in limbo between her past life with husband Tom (Chris Larkin) and whatever her future might hold.
Day's Izzy is unreliable and unpredictable, flicking almost instantaneously between sarcasm and tears. For me her performance had a touch of the Billie Pipers, which makes me think she could be one to watch.
Son Adam is played by Charles Reston as straight-laced and academically-minded, which helps to increase the impact of one particularly unpleasant verbal attack on one of his family members. Larkin's Tom seems slightly downtrodden but clearly still cares a lot for his kids and ex-wife in spite of past misdemeanours.
One of my biggest issues with this play is that none of the characters really drew me in. I didn't feel strongly enough about any of them to really care about their fates - finding myself admiring one of the actor's shoes for a minute or two is a strong indication that a play is failing to grab me.
A few other elements didn't quite work for me either. Firstly, some very short interjections, presumably meant to represent the characters' internal monologues and thrown out to make the audience laugh, fell almost totally flat - and the accompanying lighting changes were too subtle, even in the small space of Trafalgar Studios 2.
The way in which the play is structured - intended, I think, to be one of its defining features - also didn't cut it for me. I've seen this particular theatrical device (which I won't reveal as the programme notes indicate writer Jacob is keen to avoid spoilers) executed to brilliant effect in a couple of other shows.
Here, it just served to confuse me about the progression of the story and break up the rhythm, preventing the reality of the characters' relationships from fully developing.
I definitely applaud Trafalgar Studios for taking a chance on bringing new shows and less well-known playwrights into the West End - but on this occasion, it's a gamble that hasn't quite paid off.
Photo credit: Zute Lightfoot