Sunday, 31 March 2019

REVIEW: Half Me, Half You at the Tristan Bates Theatre

With our current political climate garnering unease and some backwards steps in regards to racism and homophobia, it seems that ‘Half Me, Half You’ – a play with the tagline What if you were black, gay and a woman in America right now– is ideal for now. The play takes place in two different time zones – with a confrontation between married couple Jess and Meredith in 2017, and a confrontation in 2033 between Meredith and mixed race teenager Maya.

Whilst the idea of the play is bang on the money for our time, the execution however was less so. For me Liane Grant’s writing dragged, often repeating the same argument over and over again each act, leaving a scene repetitive and all on one note. Her exciting and fresh ideas towards a second American Civil War felt underwritten, whereas whilst she has very important and valid points on adoption, IVF and white supremacy through the play, they soon became over exhausted and lost impact. Also, whilst the play is naturalistic in delivery, the exposition felt clunky and the writing left the audience struggling to understand what was going on. Plus when the characters keep crying again and again in the same scene even the most experienced actors would struggle to keep the emotion real and raw.

Leah Fogo’s direction generally meant that there was good balancing of space and using the wonderful set (designed by Justin Williams and Jonny Rust) well. She also clearly focused on naturalism with the actors, to keep it truthful. However in focusing on naturalism there were instances where the actors were turned away from the audience for prolonged periods of time, scene changes that were far too long with an empty stage and the energy often fell flat, with some scenes in Act Two in particular being very static. 

The flat energy wasn’t helped by some of the actors being quiet and not articulating the text clearly enough. However, Toccarra Cash stood out as Jess - really lifting the energy and giving good diction throughout. She gave Jess a real warmth and likeability whilst being honest in her performance. Whilst Laura Shipler Chico added much needed energy in Act Two as Deb, unfortunately her character was over exaggerated and clashed with the naturalism portrayed by the other actors.

Added to this, I wasn’t always sure what Scott Stait was adding to the play with his sound design, especially with distracting sounds in Act Two that brought you out of the scene to question if it was a mistake, a distracting noise from outside the theatre, or meant to happen. Overall, this play is far too long and whilst you can see there is a good heart behind it, it has too many falling points to be enjoyable or captivating. 

Review by Adam Yorke

Rating: ★★

Seat: n/a | Price of Ticket: £18
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