Reviewed – 1st July 2019
“the audience feels involved in the lives of these characters right from the start”
Past Perfect is a play about memory. It is a short, but effective script that explores a relationship between two people. It plays on the idea that we never quite remember the past as it actually happened, and when one partner has difficulty keeping track of time anyway, the stage is set for some lively disagreements about what happened on the day Gary met Nell, and the story of their relationship thereafter. As an additional complication, playwright Philip Holt presents us with three characters, two of them representing the memories of the woman Aurelia/Nell unfolding both in the time of the relationship, and as she remembers it looking back. The title Past Perfect is also a pun, referring not just to the way the characters might remember the past, but as a nod to the man, Gary’s, obsession with Latin verbs. As Gary and Nell skirmish over differing accounts of their imperfect present, can they reach a place where their memories can agree on a perfect past?
The performance is an agreeable way to spend forty minutes; it is not a profound play, but it is thoughtful entertainment, and it is also a good vehicle for talented performers. Patricia Magno, who plays the older Aurelia/Nell; Bethan Cullinane, playing the younger; and Robin Morrissey, who plays Gary, have plenty of opportunities to show the audience what they can do, and they make the most of them. They handle the opening monologues and rapid interrupting between characters not unlike tennis players deftly batting a ball back and forth. Undeterred by the small size of the playing space, and the closeness of the audience, they are also fearless in their use of direct address. The result is that the audience feels involved in the lives of these characters right from the start, and that interest continues right up to the moment where playwright Holt delivers a final, shocking, twist.
With a compact set cleverly designed by Amy Rose Mitchell, consisting of free standing flats decorated with clocks, and with skillful direction by Fred Gray, Etcetera Theatre’s production of Past Perfect gives an overall sense of time well spent in the theatre.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Etcetera Theatre until 6th July
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Brighton Theatre Royal
Reviewed – 8th April 2019
“Jon Brittain’s script is a weaving explosion”
Alice and Fiona have been living in Rotterdam for seven years. They were only supposed to be there for one. It’s nearly New Year’s Eve and Alice is composing an email, and redrafting it, and spell checking it, and redrafting it again. She is trying to come out to her parents as a lesbian. But just as she is about to press send, her partner Fi delivers some unexpected news. Fi is a man, has always been a man, just wants to “stop trying to be a woman”. He asks to be called Adrian, the name his parents would’ve given him if they’d known he was a boy when he was born. The two characters spiral on different journeys, Adrian coming to terms with his gender identity, with the violence of being misgendered and the possibilities of hormones and surgery. Meanwhile, Alice questions her sexuality all over again, as she begins the process of accepting Adrian, and herself.
Jon Brittain’s script is a weaving explosion, each scene launching into the next (also thanks to Donnacadh O’Briain’s energised direction). The relationships between our four characters are gradually revealed, connecting them in different and surprising ways.
The set, designed by Ellan Parry, shows a black and white Amsterdam, splattered with pink, vivid purple, neon light, even covered with blue balloons at one point in the play. It isn’t anything hugely exciting but it doesn’t need to be. It allows for the different places the play takes us to, to be created, and for the story to be told. The mirrored door, throwing light across the audience every time it is opened is particularly lovely. Cleverly, even the details of the set, with backlit gendered toilet signs above a bar, are a constant reminder of the weight of gender, and the way we perceive it, in society. The fireworks thrown out into the audience – or seemingly so – are a really effective moment of lighting design from Richard Williamson.
The play is punctuated by some incredibly powerful and emotional images, but it is also laced with humour, and the actors find the balance between these moments really well. In fact the cast is strong all round. Lucy Jane Parkinson has a brilliant presence onstage, humourous at first, strong to the point of near aggression, deeply vulnerable when Adrian phones his mum to come out to her for the first time. A vivid performance of need and strength. Bethan Cullinane’s Alice is wonderfully played. Still closeted and unable to let go, she meets the vibrant Lelani (Ellie Morris) who takes her to parties and smokes weed with her. There is so much humour and life in this journey, and it is delicately undercut by Alice’s own struggles with her sexuality, and her frequently cruel way of processing Adrian’s transition. Elijah W Harris takes a couple of scenes to become grounded in the role of Josh, but when he does he is immediately likeable, and the relationship between Josh and Adrian in particular, feels warm and genuine.
This is a play through which you will laugh and cry. It discusses gender, sexuality, family, love and Rotterdam, and is delivered by strong, honest performances from a talented cast.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography courtesy I AM Marketing
Brighton Theatre Royal until 10th April then UK Tour continues
Previously reviewed at this venue: