Hope Mill, Manchester
It would take a hard heart to begrudge author Jack Thorne the success he has enjoyed in his collaboration with J K Rowling. Thorne has paid his dues with some intimate emotionally devastating dramas including Mydidae, now getting its regional première at Hope Mill.
Bathrooms are places where activities one would prefer to perform in private take place. Yet the relationship between David (David Gregan-Jones) and Marian (Hollie-Jay Bowes) is so strong, neither hesitates to use the toilet or parade around in a state of undress in the presence of the other. Lying under the relaxed flirtatious surface, there is, however, a growing sense of strain and unease, reflected in David trembling in his sleep and remarks about just getting through the day or taking flowers. When the subject the couple have been avoiding finally surfaces, it leads to a physical act of violence that, while shocking, is not as disturbing as the aftermath.
Mydidae is a complex play; Thorne does not limit possible motivations for the violence to the loss the couple have suffered. Other tensions are apparent—David’s small business is struggling and he may have an inferiority complex arising from Marian’s higher standard of education. The physical violence is shocking but the emotional attacks the couple make on each other are even more brutal. ’’Do you think we had a chance and missed it?’’ Marian asks at one point, unable to resist poking at the tender spot in the relationship.
Thorne creates a fatalistic environment in which there is so little hope of relief from mental torment, physical violence is welcome as a different type of pain that acts as a distraction. There is a horrible sense that enduring grief has made David and Marian so weary, a repetition of violence and even self-destruction is preferable.
Rather than a mood of suspense or tension, director Laura Woodward opts for a growing eerie sense of things being not quite right. Scene changes feature thunderous noises and disturbing lighting. When the cast do not feature centre stage, they linger in the background like a spectre. It is an approach reflected in David Gregan-Jones’s emotionally restrained performance as someone just about holding it together but aware one bad day is all it will take to push things to a crisis.
Hollie-Jay Bowes gives a deeply disturbing performance of constrained hysteria and possibly encroaching madness. The loss of her child has traumatised Marian to the extent she refers to a possible second child not as a human being but an object—a replacement. It is horrifying to watch Bowes grimly welcome the deterioration of her relationship with David, confident he will hurt her again and concluding they deserve each other.
Although Wonderhouse Theatre’s Mydidae is a bleak portrayal of couple not waving but drowning, it remains a compelling production all the same.
Reviewer: David Cunningham