Reviewed – 8th January 2018
“The main issue comes from Healy’s script, aiming to cover far too much and along the way ending up with very little with real depth”
Consistently, whether true or not, the Brexit Vote has been linked to nostalgic ideas of Britain’s past. In the same way, Sue Healy’s Imaginationship examines Great Yarmouth, an area in which 72% voted Leave, as a town plagued by memories of an apparently glorious former life. The conflicts of residents with both the world outside and those who come in will drive the thrust of this wide reaching drama.
We follow a series of interconnected relationships. A nostalgia night ran by Ginnie Atkins is taking place, gazing back into the 70s, the music and the dance moves. For her best friend Brenda and her daughter Melody, sex is on the brain, whether desiring too much or a lack thereof. The conflicts of each and those that they encounter, will spread wide through sexual obsession, migrant tensions and a rosily imagined past and future for all that looks unlikely to develop.
The main issue comes from Healy’s script, aiming to cover far too much and along the way ending up with very little with real depth. It is a shame because there are some really clear characters to explore, though a couple feel defined by patronising characterisations. There are also some nice ideas into what the frame of an ‘outsider’ can be. However, as we move through each issue and the story, they are spread thin enough that we have no empathy. All this builds to an ending that at best is clunky and at its worst really quite distasteful.
Tricia Thorns’ production is functional without being inspiring, with occasional insight suffering with stiffness. The sense of a faded town is sufficiently brought in by Leigh Malone and Isabella van Braeckel’s design, while the tackiness of a seaside celebration is effectively brought to life by Richard Haines’ lighting. Overall the cast is solid though hobbled by the material. Patience Tomlinson’s Brenda effectively shows a woman overwhelmingly desperate for male attention, and as her daughter, Joanna Bending lends Melody a biting nature undercut by her signs of vulnerability with Bart Suavek’s sweet Attila and Rupert Wickham’s controlling Tony.
It feels as though the theatre world is still struggling to get to grips with Brexit, with performances confronting it directly often revealing little insight to a like minded audience. This is no different, in an uneven and overlong show that needs far more clarity and focus to bring anything new to the discussion.
Reviewed by Callum McCartney
Finborough Theatre until 23rd January