“a gripping play that deals sensitively with a difficult topic”
Rachel presents dead bodies, for what we can assume is a funeral directors, and is forced to confront her demons when faced with the body of a man who sexually assaulted her. This forms the basis of Alexandra Donnachie’s play, When We Died, exploring the aftermath of trauma and how one woman coming face to face with her attacker prompts her to tell her story.
The play begins relatively upbeat, with Rachel explaining her job and how she entertains herself by imagining the kinds of lives the people she has to embalm might have lived. The humour here is quite unexpected but actually works very well. A change of mood occurs when Rachel explains that one day she had to present a man it turns out she knows, although we’re unsure of exactly how they knew each other at this point in the play.
Throughout the play Rachel switches from providing an insight into the different stages of the embalming process (oddly fascinating!) to recounting how she met her attacker, the night he took advantage and the impact the event went on to have. Donnachie’s engaging manner makes it easy for us to retain interest in the story and feel empathy for the character she has created. You can really imagine Rachel’s place of work, flat and the people in her life thanks to Donnachie’s excellent story-telling. She also makes a good amount of eye contact with the audience, but not so much that it’s awkward.
The stage is framed by strips of neon lights on the floor and two neon poles in opposite corners, which change colour and dim at various points during the play. This is quite atmospheric but doesn’t add a great deal to a play which is fuelled by an engaging script and talented sole performer.
When We Died deals with a tricky subject, but there is no graphic detail of sexual violence. The focus is instead on the aftermath of rape and how this one character copes and comes to terms with it. Andy Routledge’s direction combined with Donnachie’s writing and acting makes for a gripping play that deals sensitively with a difficult topic. I only hope more people get to experience it beyond its short run as part of the VAULT Festival.
“a clear portrayal of how relationships develop and intensify and the impact people can have on each other”
Two strangers on a tube meet and make conversation when the train comes to a sudden stop. A pretty normal scenario, you would think. You sit there for a few minutes and then you’re on your way again. In this story however, the tube stops and doesn’t move again. Rachel (Michaela Carberry) and “The Man” (George Damms) get to know each other over the course of the play. We see their relationship develop as they learn about each other in an intense, out of the ordinary situation.
“The Man” is a musician and Damms skilfully plays the guitar and sings at various points throughout. This is a nice addition and splits up the scenes effectively. Damms acts well and portrays a character who clearly has more to him than meets the eye and some emotional baggage it would have been interesting to find out more about. Carberry as Michaela is engaging to watch and shows good emotional range throughout her character’s ups and downs.
The set leaves quite a bit to the imagination, but a tube carriage is clearly conveyed by two “windows” at the back of the space with authentic signs you would find in a real carriage. The set space is also clearly marked by fluorescent tape, within which all the action takes place. This is an effective touch and could be said to help create the claustrophobic feeling you would experience if stuck inside a tube carriage for a prolonged period of time.
Joe Kerry (writer) has included modern references and relatable circumstances, such as Rachel’s uncertainty in her move to London to kick-start a career, making Tube relevant to audiences today. The two actors have received good direction from Bobby Standley but there is the danger, if sat at the side, that audience members may sometimes miss lines and facial expressions.
Tube is a clear portrayal of how relationships develop and intensify and the impact people can have on each other. In an un-naturalistic scenario, naturalistic themes are explored alongside a range of human emotion. Some scenes feel a bit disjointed, but a few twists and turns as well as music means we are kept engaged for the most part.