Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Theatre review: Yous Two

Chelsea Walker directs Georgia Christou’s debut play Downstairs at Hampstead Theatre, a short and entertaining look at co-dependency and the fear of hereditary mental illness. Yous Two are 15-year-old Billie (Shannon Tarbet,) and her father Jonny (Joseph Thompson,) who’ve been pretty much the only family each other has since Billie’s mother committed suicide, so long ago her daughter was too young to really remember her. Jonny struggles to work thanks to a shoulder injury from his last job, and makes ends meet as a ticket tout until the expected compensation payout arrives. Billie expects a more academic future – she’s a maths and science geek at school, and though she’s not as good at the humanities her more artistically-inclined best friend Rachel (Leah Harvey) helps her out with her English. The play takes place entirely in the bathroom (designed by Rosanna Vize) where Billie was born.

The setting is an intimate enough one that Christou can quickly introduce us to the father and daughter and how close their relationship is, albeit one where they’re often in each other’s way.

But this isn’t a setup that can last forever, and as Billie grows up there’s inevitable developments – getting a boyfriend (Ali Barouti,) starting to consider universities – that mean the duo’s familiar dynamic has to change, and despite her ambitions she’s as resistant to it as her father. The crux of the matter comes in a predictable way – and as soon as we see Billie throwing up into the toilet the game’s been given away – but the way this plays out does have a few unexpected turns, which may or may not be related to the depression she’s terrified of inheriting from her mother.

Despite a linear central story Yous Two still feels a bit too episodic at times – some themes, like whether Jonny has his own undiagnosed mental health issues, are dealt with a bit too tangentially, so that it feels like Christou has revelations at hand that never come. Like many Hampstead Downstairs shows from new writers, a decent budget has been put into the production but it feels as if the script development could have gone further, leaving the overall effect a bit undernourished. But the playwright has a definite ear for dialogue and eye for creating interesting characters, and Walker’s production brings them to life – Tarbet and Thompson create a credibly loving but unhealthily isolated family, and Harvey and Barouti give us characters we want to see allowed into it. Despite an unfinished feel it’s an entertaining and sometimes emotionally involving evening.

Yous Two by Georgia Christou is booking until the 24th of February at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs.

Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes straight through.

Photo credit: Robert Day.

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