Otherlife / The Other Room / Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
The Other Room at Porters, Cardiff
The recent LoveSick season at The Other Room presented a series of plays which forensically examined the ups and downs (mostly downs) of relationships. Mydidae, brought to the venue by OtherLife, whose first production this is, could be seen as a fitting, unofficial epilogue.
OtherLife is aiming to bring the best of London theatre to Cardiff; thus, the choice of a piece by Jack Thorne is an astute one. The author of popular and award-winning (and bleak) television projects such as The Fades, National Treasure and the recent Kiri, he is also responsible for the hit stage adaptations Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Let The Right One In.
Mydidae was first produced at The Soho Theatre in 2012. The relevance of the title seems to be restricted to the fact that it refers to species of unusually large flies; we the audience are flies on the wall of a beautifully recreated bathroom—designed by Ceci Calf (who is, like most of the crew, currently studying at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama), complete with running water and a flushing toilet.
This is the London flat of David and Marian, whom we first meet as they are preparing to start the day—she practising her French for a notional future trip, him working out the fine details of a pitching session at work. Despite the cosy familiarity and obvious deep affection between the pair, it quickly becomes clear that there is trouble in paradise.
Their future prosperity seems to hang on David’s meeting. This concern is secondary, however, to the fact that today is the anniversary of a significant loss suffered by this young couple.
As the day progresses, we learn of various other strains upon the relationship. There is the class difference between them, the fact that David does not get on well with his partner’s mother and, crucially, the contents of Marian’s medicine cabinet. Inevitably, the pressure tells, and a shocking event occurs, which is depicted with chilling effectiveness.
Isabella Marshall and Matthew Raymond are highly convincing as the couple whose teasing banter masks an unhappiness rooted in matters beyond their control. We get the impression of a couple who were attracted to one another’s differences—Marian’s private schoolgirl playfulness, David’s sincerity and uncomplicatedness.
Director Simon Reeves makes the most of the actors’ lack of physical inhibition, cleverly playing up those moments where intimacy turns to awkwardness (e.g. the intricacies of bath-sharing); and the blackout scene transitions are almost filmic in their quick-fire slickness. Will Gregory’s lighting design conveys young, middle-class, skin-deep equanimity as subtly as his soundtrack choices.
Thorne’s script is both clever and poignant, giving the actors much to relish. The long sequence, following the climactic incident, during which we are unsure whether or not we have entered a dream state, is disorientating. The subsequent return to “normality” comes as a relief and perhaps a reminder that, when it comes to personal relationships, there is no such thing.
The central theme of Mydidae appears to be the infinite resilience of the human spirit, and the possibility that love might, actually, conquer all. It is a play which digs deep, and this stylish, adventurous production leaves one emotionally exhausted.
Reviewer: Othniel Smith