Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 19th April 2018
“a refreshingly nuanced and complex representation of a relationship”
In the sweltering heat in the shallows of the Gulf of Mexico, Kendra is fishing. Her monosyllables punctuate the constant chatter of her girlfriend Betty. But when they realise they are stuck on the boat for the night, the conversation moves from idle chat to a discussion about the state of their own relationship.
This is a refreshingly nuanced and complex representation of a relationship, in a world filled with predictably formulaic romcoms. It is also an exciting addition to the queer narratives we are seeing onstage more and more now, and it is brilliant to see a play where the sexuality of its characters is incidental.
Both Kendra (Louisa Lytton) and Betty (Anna Acton) are multidimensional characters, and it is the well-crafted development of them which makes up most of the plot. Though Acton takes a moment to settle into her accent, she is the stronger of the two, harnessing Betty’s frenetic energy and keeping the play moving forwards. Lytton takes longer to settle into the role of Kendra, but gets stronger as her character develops. However I felt like there was more she could have done with the role as some potential humour was lost onstage.
The set is impressively realistic, a rowing boat bobbing on a dappled floor, a jetty retreating into trees and shrubbery. As the light (design by Mitchell Reeve) fades at an imperceptible rate, the couple’s isolation is gradually heightened.
Unfortunately pacing issues across the performance means the piece is unable to take off. The atmospheric slowness at the beginning works beautifully initially, but it continues for an overly long time. The build up also dips at points due to unnecessary pauses, making it easy to disengage as an audience member.
Directed by Matthew Gould, Audrey Cefaly’s ‘The Gulf’ is a meandering snapshot of a relationship many are likely to be able to relate to in some way. The characters are nuanced and well rendered by Acton and Lytton, but are let down by a lack of substantial plot and issues with pace, which means the piece fails to take off.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Rachael Cummings
Tristan Bates Theatre until 5th May