For those not familiar with the Mudchute area of the Isle of Dogs it is not the kind of place you would expect to find a stunning church converted into an arts centre where you can buy delicious burgers and sample local beers. The Space shows the importance of exploring London.
untranslatable. was written by, and stars, Laura Douglas and Matthew Graham and it is very much in keeping with Althea Theatre’s international essence. Laura hails from Northern Ireland, and Matt from Australia, and you could feel throughout that this play was more than the opportunity to share experience, it was a collaboration of acting, writing, set and tech, and direction that revealed to the audience that everyone involved in its production missed someone, or somewhere.
The play takes you on the journey of a young couple and the many obstacles they face as their relationship evolves in unexpected ways. Written over a social media messaging app, the dialogue has a rhythmic nature which keeps you engaged, and at times anxious because the intimacy of the writing leaves you feeling that you’re intruding in the inner sanctum of the couple’s relationship. The set design added a lot to this feeling of intrusion, with seating around all four sides of the performance area you were on top of the action at all times.
The potency of their writing and delivery left me feeling constantly on edge as they dragged me through the peaks and troughs of the present and future of the characters’ lives with the incredible effective use of a non-linear narrative. This is a play for our time, and a reflection on the people we are now that could be examined in the future as a representation of early twenty-first century life rather than the countless articles in The Times forced down people’s necks on what a public school educated ‘journalist’ really thinks makes millennials depressed.
Laura Douglas and Matthew Graham were both superb in their respective roles. Douglas displayed an intensity in her performance that was at times terrifying. However working with delicately crafted changes in lighting or sound she would pull you back from tears in a heartbeat and make you fall deeply in love with her unicorn loving charmingly crafted character. She is an actress who leaves you floored, she takes you off guard, she makes you care so much more than you think you should.
Graham was collected, considered, and seemingly in total control throughout, so when the scenes came when the emotions of life knocked him off his perch he would display such depths of despair and agony. This meant that even at the times you wanted to hate him you couldn’t help wanting to put your arms around him and tell him it will all be okay. There is a particular scene near the end of the play, but no spoilers here, where Graham wept, I wept, and those around me wept. He tore my chest open, they both did.
Both of these artists have fine futures ahead, of that I have no doubt.
untranslatable. is directed by Lilac Yosiphon, creative director at Althea Theatre, and this show carries her distinct vibrancy. She is a director who finds the light, the illusive light which is made from more than just great writing or acting, but instead a light that is created when worlds and words and colour and sound collide. This production is another leap forward for this fledgling production company.
Credit must also go to assistant director Sam Elwin, set designer Jessica Miles, lighting technician Conor Cook, and show technician Stuart Scott, for making this superb piece of theatre exist. We have to ensure that untranslatable. and the shows that will come after it have crowds worthy of the talent on display. We are a nation who love arts, and in this day and age investing time and a few quid in going to see a new play is an act of defiance against leaders who do not believe that art really has its place in our world.
untranslatable. runs until August 13. Book your ticket here.