http://vilearts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/this-much-dramaturgy-john-fitzpatrick.html

A Review in Retrospect…Fringe Theatre Brought to the Forefront: This Much

http://vilearts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/this-much-dramaturgy-john-fitzpatrick.html

This Much (or An Act of Violence Towards The Institution of Marriage) by John Fitzpatrick

Presented by Nik Holtum and Moving Dust Productions

Ran at Soho Theatre from 7th June – 2nd July

Gar wants his long-term boyfriend Anthony. He also wants the mysterious, younger Albert. Gar wants too much, so any choice he makes will be a compromise. This Much explores the complexity of modern relationships and how growing older doesn’t necessarily make us wiser.

 

The universal idea of freedom and obligation was woven through the piece. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve faced a crossroads in life, and we have had to make a choice: we either stick to the old, or take a leap into the unknown. And this isn’t necessarily in the context of relationships; it also applies to choices about our education, careers, lifestyles – the list goes on.

 

In the play (without giving too much away), Gar drifts between wanting a committed relationship with his boyfriend Anthony, who represents the familiar, the safe, and the dependable, and Albert, who Gar meets on a dating app and represents the unreliable, the mysterious, and the dangerous. The trouble is, Gar never decides which way to go and is left floating, lost. In this way, the play is also about growing up and accepting the consequences of one’s choices – something that Gar never does.

 

The subject matter is thought-provoking, poignant, but most of all it’s extremely real. None of the characters are actually nice people, they all have their faults and they all make stupid decisions. And this is true to life – no one is perfect, yet this is what makes the characters so exquisite. It is easy to write either a good or bad character, because they only have one dimension. The challenge of the writer comes from creating a character which is capable of both good and bad. Gar especially shows the potential to be loved or hated – his indecisiveness and longing to stay young, free, and without responsibility is very relatable. But, his selfishness and inability to accept responsibility for his actions also makes him a very frustrating character.

 

It’s not just the subject matter that makes this play great. First things first about the production, the script was first class. The play tracks nearly every stage of a relationship, from the exciting yet awkward first meeting, to the heartfelt or long-coming goodbye. The subtlety and indirectness of the language used was really effective in creating this feeling that the speech was spontaneous and fresh, whilst still conjuring really beautiful images and metaphors in the longer monologues (which thankfully were used sparingly; I hate a show with heaps of endless monologues). Apart from one coincidence where Gar finds a blurred picture of himself adrift in the ocean (could this present him as a lost character, I wonder?!), the metaphors in the script were surprising and inventive which was refreshing, as with shows exploring romantic relationships I often find that writers revert to cliche.

 

The quality of the writing also added to genuinity of the characters. I only realised halfway through the show that I actually wasn’t sure of the character’s names because they hadn’t been said a ridiculous amount of times to establish the characters. I appreciated the amount of trust in the audience the script held. It was effective because it assumed that the audience was intelligent so therefore didn’t spoon-feed or overtly divulge information. It was carefully unfolded through a number of fragmented scenes in which Gar flits between Anthony and Albert in a series of duologues (in which conversation is often broken up by the enactment of daily, representing the failure to communicate), and some top physical theatre sequences which develop the relationship between Anthony and Gar.

 

The set is also worth mentioning. I’m a fan of minimalist multi-purpose set, and This Much really delivered. It was basically a bunch of wooden boxes, some with lighting inside, others fitted with rails for clothes to hang off, and even one with a disco ball hanging inside. Throughout the show they were rearranged to create a bunch of different structures to hint at abstract settings or furniture, which was a. A really wise choice for the company as it was cheap and the strike time was fast (the show premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe last year where each venue space must be cleared in under ten minutes) and b. Effective because it didn’t hint at any really specific settings, contributing to the universality of the piece.

 

The final thing I feel I can’t not mention about this production is the presentation of gay relationships – because it’s 2016, and heteronormativity has really overstayed it’s welcome, hasn’t it? I’ve seen so many productions where the LGBT community has been ignored in favour of dated traditionalist notions of casting male/female, and to be quite frank, I’m bored and frustrated by it. This Much shows the attitude towards casting and gender that I believe the theatre industry should be moving towards – as Artistic Director Kate Sagovsky says ‘I think what’s really radical about the play is that it’s

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not in as overt a way as you would think, you could swap in women into that story, swap in straight relationships. The whole storyline of the play doesn’t revolve around the fact that these are gay relationships’. Of course, the play doesn’t ignore this either – the reality of being a gay man in today’s society is referenced and explored as much as the notion of relationships itself are, but the core beliefs expressed are universal. This Much is about a gay relationship, but the message it conveys is about human relationships, and how we love and leave people.

 

I refuse to believe that anyone will walk away from this show without being moved by it, even if it’s in the smallest way. As a theatre dedicated to supporting emerging companies and artists, I’d say Soho Theatre has made an excellent choice in bringing this fringe theatre gem to the forefront of London’s theatre scene. With its universality, the quality of production, and stellar performances from the cast, a genuinely spectacular piece of theatre has been created.

 

 

 

 

 

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