Between Two Waves
Reviewed – 23rd October 2019
“it has huge potential and can be great fun in a bittersweet kind of way”
Ian Meadows’ Between Two Waves is a play with the climate crisis at its core, performed at The Space as part of Rising Tides’ climate extinction double bill.
The story follows climatologist and government advisor Daniel (Tomás Barry), who is dealing not only with an insurance claim for important files damaged in a flood, but also a new relationship with his colleague Fiona (Gintare Smigelskyte), the possibility of bringing a child into an uncertain future and the rising pressure of making the right people listen to his climate warnings.
The story is extremely fast-paced and throws all these elements into the mix simultaneously – none are forgotten about for more than a few minutes as scenes almost overlap each other, with characters from one scene sometimes entering before the previous character from a different scene has left. Daniel is the only constant, remaining on stage throughout the play’s entirety and rarely moving from his spot.
In terms of encouraging dialogue about the climate crisis, Between Two Waves unfortunately falls short. Any statistics and points actively spoken about climate change are used primarily as filler for when Daniel addresses a camera, which makes them appear sterile and somehow implies that we shouldn’t pay attention to what’s being said.
I couldn’t help but notice a lack of discernible message throughout – the multimedia speech at the end seems hastily shoved in at the last minute, perhaps to try and make up for this.
The plot is also quite difficult to follow. The timescale of the story seems to have been chopped into pieces and scattered about, which director Linda Miller has failed to present in a clear way to the audience and is not helped by the sound design (Keri Chesser), which is often disorientating and at some points deafening.
The confusing chronology is particularly problematic when it comes to Daniel and Fiona’s journey together, or rather the lack of it – at one point the play jumps from Fiona screaming at Daniel, having known him for a matter of days, to a year down the line with the two now a happy couple. No reconciliation, no context.
Other confusing plot points involve abstract monologues Daniel delivers to Fiona’s answerphone about his sister – we are given some context about what happened to her but not enough to fully understand her role within his story.
That’s not to say the play doesn’t have its merits. The writing is superb during the more playful interactions – beautifully timed one-liners, witty wordplay and moments of relatable awkwardness are generously peppered throughout. These scenes are hugely enjoyable and have us roaring with laughter, particularly when witnessing Daniel’s knack of saying the complete wrong thing to Fiona – I can’t help but feel that Between Two Waves would work better if it was simplified and more focussed on their relationship.
The individual acting is also wonderful. Each character is a finely honed, multi-faceted being and the actors’ performances seem effortlessly natural. Barry and Smigelskyte stand out purely due to their comic delivery, which pays the text dividends, although Grenelle (Alice Langrish) and Jimmy (William de Coverly) offer fantastic support.
Between Two Waves is a play that suffers from an identity crisis. Its ambition is admirable, sure, but trying to cram five or six stories into one narrative in this case serves only to complicate things and take away from the moments that do work. It’s a shame because it has huge potential and can be great fun in a bittersweet kind of way – so why not concentrate on this and cut off the excess fat?
Reviewed by Sebastian Porter
Between Two Waves
The Space until 15th November
Previously reviewed at this venue: