Catching Up

August 19, 2021 | By | Reply More

★★☆☆☆    Shapeless

theSpace @ Symposium Hall (Venue 43): Mon 16 – Sat 21 Aug 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is an amorphous feel to Theatre Paradok’s Catching Up at Symposium Hall, as if what we are seeing has had one draft too few – or, more likely, several drafts too many.

Childhood friends Sean and Lemon reunite in attempt to write a Hollywood smash, but Sean’s desire for chemical inspiration leads Lemon to remember traumatic events involving their friend Lily, later Lemon’s partner.

The Cast of Catching Up. Pic: Andrew Perry

Both Sean and Lemon are played by two performers, as the action switches back and forward in time. While this is an interesting device in theory, it is less convincing in practice. With the performers all so similar in age, the differentiation between them is not as great as it might be, and having them interact in a small space makes things cluttered.

This is not the only puzzle about the play. The dual time scheme and slow reveal of events is all very well, but at the end there are more questions than answers.

While much of the writing is sharply observed, there is a great deal that is apparently missing. Leaving aside the decidedly odd choice of two cash-strapped, would-be writers spending all of their money on a train trip to the Norfolk countryside with only vodka, cigarettes, half a tube of Pringles and some dry Frosties for sustenance, the question of why any of it is happening in the first place is even odder.

There seems no reason for anyone who knows Sean to continue to associate with him, let alone believe his barmy plans about writing a blockbuster with himself in the lead role, or his ludicrous stories about being in ‘talks with Netflix’. Considering the writer Leonardo Shaw plays the adult Sean, you would have thought he might have given himself the odd line that suggests charisma, wit, or any kind of redeeming feature.

maddeningly opaque

Simply having a character declare that he is funny is not enough, especially in yet another show billed as ‘a dark comedy,’ but which produces (if we are being generous) one and a half laughs.

Since some of the writing is sharp, the most obvious explanation is that this is one of those shows that has been workshopped or edited almost out of existence, with all of the supposedly philosophical ruminations on teenage or young adult life left in, but anything that would truly give us an insight into the characters left out.

Director Bella Forshaw and the cast do their best, with Shaw at least providing some energy as the older Sean, and Tom Hindle having a nasty glee as the younger version. However, there seems to be no progression of any kind in the character – which may be the point, but in that case the use of two actors becomes even stranger.

The younger (Freya Wilson) and older (Lizzie Martin) versions of Lemon do show some signs of maturing while being recognisably the same person – although the motives of both versions remain maddeningly opaque.

Florence Carr-Jones as Lily inhabits her character most successfully of all, being the most recognisable human being. This makes it all the more regrettable that we never hear from an older Lily.

There is something being said here about abuse, and about the nature of memory and how it can be repressed, but it is all frustratingly indirect. Simply leaving things out and requiring the audience to read whatever they like into events is a difficult way to go unless the handling is absolutely assured, and does not automatically equal profundity.

Just when it seems we are getting somewhere (thanks in no small part to a physical sequence courtesy of movement director Isla Jamieson-Mackenzie, which is the best thing about the play by far) it just stops abruptly.

That so much obvious care has gone into producing such a formless result makes it even more infuriating, with enough on display to suggest that all involved will do much better.

Running time 50 minutes (no interval)
theSpace at Symposium Hall, Hill Square, EH8 9DR (venue 43)
Monday 16 – Saturday 21 August 2021
Daily at 5.25 pm

Information and tickets at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/catching-up
Company website: http://theatreparadok.co.uk
Facebook: @theatreparadok
Instagram: @theatreparadok
Twitter: @theatreparadok

ENDS

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