Travis Alabanza and Magdalena Zarębska-Wegrzyn
In Tandem is a co-production between Paines Plough and Polish company Theater Ludowy from Kraków.
Directed by Charlotte Bennett and Katie Posner, the Joint Artistic Directors of Paines Plough, morning and afternoon over three days, it delivers total of six short video plays, forming a kind of duo of mini soap operas with heart.
One has been written by Londoner Travis Alabanza, while the other comes from Kraków, courtesy of Magdalena Zarębska-Wegrzyn.
At the 9AM presentation on day one, viewers are invited to become flies on the wall as a young Londoner played by Leanne Henlon attempts to persuade her mother, a nurse, to nourish and protect what sounds like a jungle of plant life, acting as a metaphor for society.
Later that day, in Kraków, those flies get into an even more embarrassing situation as they witness Patrycja Durska and Paweł Kumięga portraying a couple bickering during what must now be regarded as a typical, frustrated lockdown couch session.
Lackadaisical hubby is happy to watch cookery shows on TV and eat cheese sandwiches, never varying his schedule. By contrast, his intellectually more adventurous wife is keen on self-improvement and becomes frustrated as she attempts to instil a little more ambition into the man of the house.
The order swaps on Day 2, which turns out to be attempted bonding day, with the second Polish episode in the morning.
In Kraków, the husband manages to become hero to a women’s online yoga class, before finally succumbing to a head massage that turns out to be beneficial to both.
Back in the UK, the daughter from the first episode appears side-by-side (via Zoom) with her mother, played by recent Olivier winner Sharon D Clarke.
Although their efforts to commune via an online dance class lead to arguments, even that constitutes a bonding opportunity for them as they discuss the life of a BAME nurse in this undemocratic pandemic and whether she should quit to avoid further risk.
By the third and last day, things have changed in both countries.
Now, our go-getting Polish wife has become weary and is beginning to wonder whether her efforts are worthwhile. By way of contrast, her husband, who can obtain satisfaction from little more than acting the couch potato in front of cookery programmes, has achieved peace, which he is keen to share.
Similarly, the London mother and daughter pairing realise that the small things in life make it bearable when you are in lockdown and separated from loved ones.
In both cases, a message is developed suggesting that what appear to be irreparable divisions between contrasting personalities become relatively inconsequential during a pandemic, when teamwork and harmony are more likely to bring mutual satisfaction.
The play gets a second outing on 3/4/5 November.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher