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BWW Review: RAYA, Hampstead Theatre


At Hampstead Theatre until 24 July

BWW Review: RAYA, Hampstead Theatre

BWW Review: RAYA, Hampstead Theatre 30 years after former flames Jason and Alex last saw one another, the pair reunite at Jason's old student house - each bringing different past life experiences to the encounter. Played by Bo Paraj and Claire Price, the duo flirt, somewhat reigniting their passion and they both attempt to rediscover what their relationship meant to them then, and now. Deborah Bruce's play, directed by Hampstead Theatre Artistic Director Roxana Silbert, explores carefree university adventure through the lens of people who now should know better.

There's a lot of tenderness throughout the 80 minutes, and it is enjoyable to see two middle-aged people reminisce their past. The charming exchanges show Bruce's wit and get some deserved laughs from the audience. We quickly realise that we are not to expect a whole story of predictable chatter from two middle-class individuals, and soon we should predict a descend into a dramatic twist.

Jason's house - that his parents bought him during his teens - is up for sale. When his former student tenant Alannah, played by Shannon Hayes, turns up at the house, we meet a recently bereaved vulnerable young adult. Alannah has developed an online relationship with, Raya, Jason's wife, and when Alannah mistakes Alex for her, Alex goes along with the lie - for reasons not entirely made clear. But still, there's a misbelief in the play that you're intrigued to see play out.

Bruce brings to the stage a conversation not often heard - one of female menopause and its impact on women. Through Alex and Alannah's interactions, we are treated to some humbling dialogue. These moments feel the play's most truthful, as other moments are less subtle and a tad trite. The script is erratic and Silbert latches onto this momentum, which when all the pieces of the production sync together, really works. However, when it doesn't, the production feels clunky and fights against the lovely chemistry that the actors display on stage.

Overall, the script has the character's overexplaining their feelings. Bruce's text could do with finding a greater subtlety, in order to keep the audience on track with the motivation. The play attempts to do too much in too little a time, without going into enough detail to tie everything together. There are sub plots that aren't fleshed out enough to give a real purpose. There's lots of potential in this story, but it feels like the script is still a few drafts away from achieving a true clarity in its intention.

Raya at the Hampstead Theatre until 24 July

Photo credit: Robert Day

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