Monday, 8 July 2019

Review: Shadows at the Tristan Bates Theatre


The Tristan Bates Theatre is always a good place to go to see new writing and strong emerging artists. This time, before they head up to the Edinburgh Fringe with their two-person play Shadows, Want the Moon Theatre presents us with a story by Dan Sareen who, in a non-linear way, tells of two twenty-somethings in London who happen to start working at a pub together. 

Through lighting changes designed by Joe Pilling, we are told different versions of this story, how their friendship could have gone different ways, the miscommunication which happens between the characters and the way a canvas can only be repainted on so often. This is very interestingly illustrated by a set which has objects painted all in white. This is the blank canvas, which even has film projected onto it in between sequences. The short pieces of film show the two protagonists Nat (Madeline Hatt) and James (Ross White) in love, getting married and having a child. Meanwhile, we keep seeing Nat at a piano, playing classical and modern rock music.

The play opens on the theme of music, with the two playing a guessing game at the pub to pass the time. Nat reveals that she wants to be a classical pianist, and is auditioning, sometimes failing at rising to the next level. In the film, we see her sometimes struggling to press the piano keys. This theme struck me, because things can go very well in your love life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the artistic life will flourish, and that is a painful thought. However, you can’t choose between one or the other. Moreover, while the videos are playing, Nat is actually sitting on the stage watching them, while James goes backstage: she is faced with herself and the course of her life, watching how things unfold. Is this what she wants? Can she really accept James’s love, a question violently posed at the end of the play?

The two actors have excellent chemistry and carry the show very well, directed by Jessica Williams. Hatt portrays a woman who is not at ease in her own skin, can rarely say what she really feels and wishes she could express her feelings to the person right in front of her. Sometimes, she is so nervous, she made me nervous for her! White is also cool and very natural as James, trying his best at being a good man, a friend, but is also proud and, ultimately, growing up.

This is a refreshing play, with its simple setting which focuses on a contemporary friendship and love story. It is relatable, and the pace is so quick that you sometimes don’t get to really breathe, but it keeps the audience leaning forward. I particularly liked how each object was white, making the final object of the green lime so poignant, as if a key had been unlocked, life had
happened, and there was no going back. Scary, but just the way life goes.

I think new ideas will keep coming to me about the very end of the play, and I imagine it will mean different things for different people. 

I recommend Shadows for its strong performances, intriguing writing and fast pace.

Review by Sophie Tergeist

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Free seating | Price of Ticket: £12
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