Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Theatre review: Between Us

Really quite an odd little play settles into Arcola Studio 2 at the moment, as a therapist tries her hand at stand-up comedy in Sarah Daniels' Between Us. Julia's (Charlotte Cornwell) comedy act provides the narration for a play that sees her try to reconnect with Kath (Georgina Rich,) the daughter she gave up for adoption. This story is interspersed with monologues from two of her patients, whose confessions in the therapist's chair also touch on relationships between parents and children. Some years earlier, Teresa (Rich) came to see Julia to unburden herself about her problems raising her own two adopted children, and the realisation that she can't cope. A more recent client is Dave (Callum Dixon,) who's depressed since the birth of his daughter. His fears for her future stem from an event in his past that dovetail unexpectedly with Teresa's confessions.

The theatre was almost empty tonight, so I can't blame Cornwell for not managing to make it seem convincingly as if she was performing at a late-night comedy club; but Daniels' writing doesn't help either. It's not that Julia's simply a bad comedian, it's that she doesn't seem to be making any attempt to be funny (often admitting as much) or even know what comedy is. It's really a piece of straightforward narration, and would have worked well enough as that without the unnecessary attempt at a framing device.

Not pictured: The bottles of piss a real comedy club audience would have been throwing.

There's also a real sense of confusion about what the play is trying to achieve. Julia's routine suggests sexual politics and gender inequality are the issue, but although they do come into play, particularly in Dave's story, the relationships of parents and - especially adopted - children are a more consistent theme, as is the use of therapy as a form of middle-class confession, demanding absolution for appalling behaviour.

Between Us' biggest strength is in the way the two clients' stories overlap, a couple of comfortable adults easing their consciences while a pair of troubled children are allowed to fall by the wayside. But on the whole it's a strange play to try and get a handle on.

(Also: Where is the joke about the woman accidentally spraying glitter on her flange before a smear test, and the doctor saying "nice to see you've made an effort" stolen from? I know I've heard it before, possibly more than once.)

Between Us by Sarah Daniels is booking until the 21st of June at Arcola Studio 2.

Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes straight through.

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