Wednesday, 20 January 2021

REVIEW: Always On My Mind for the Living Record Festival

This short playlet is a perfect product of the Lockdowns in 2020 in its theme and its technical execution and the end result is an intriguing piece of drama. Taking its cue from the Willie Nelson song Always on my mind where he sings. “Maybe I didn’t love you, Quite as often as I could have, and maybe I didn’t treat you, quite as good as I should have”, the play explores a couple who have split up reconnecting after six months. It resonates as a living record of the time as so many couples must have found the strains of lockdown together, or apart, difficult to deal with and all of us have tried to connect with people over the ubiquitous Zoom call and found while it allows you to see and speak to each other it inhibits real communication.

Although this started as a four-person sixty-minute play it feels like it was written for the medium as two-hander socially distanced awkward first meeting after a painful breakup. If anything, it leaves you wanting a second and possibly third act as when their call together ends abruptly you really want to know what happened next. The devise for the online version of having an actor play themselves as well as their alter ego self-watching over their shoulder and revealing their real feelings works really well and would have been fascinating to explore this more in subsequent acts.

Curtis is the calm casual ex-boyfriend of Stacey who he dumped but yearns from lock down loneliness and perhaps a deeper affection for her to reconnect but is tormented by an inner dialogue with himself (the more volatile laddish character called Jack). Both are played by Charles Lomas who through green screen technology moodily patrols the background of the bedroom observing and commenting on the couple’s conversation as a devilish voice in the ear while stuck in front of the screen.

Stacey is played by Lucy Syed as the vulnerable hurt girlfriend who has a new boyfriend met online while being urged to be stronger and bolder by her alter ego Jill. In answer to a question about how long she has been seeing the new man Stacey replies 1 month, while Jill reveals its three months. When asked if the sex is better Stacey declines to answer, while Jill shouts Yes. Whether Stacey or Jill is telling the truth we are not sure, but their contrasting attitudes indicates the mixed feelings she has about reconnecting with Curtis.

There are flash backs to their previous relationship together which don’t sit quite as well as they are obviously filmed separately and edited together for Covid safe reasons although the memory of watching Spiderman together cleverly indicates the different recalls with different track suit bottoms.

This is a very enjoyable piece well directed by Theodore Gray and accompanied by a behind the scenes video from the author Liam Alexander who explains the process. He acknowledges it could have been longer and I hope he will revisit the idea to include a second reconciliation meeting and more flashbacks where we can see the alter egos in action during their relationship together. But in the meantime, this is worth watching as part of the Living Records Festival until 22nd February. Short but sweet.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £6
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